Support Local Journalism, Join the SA Current Press Club.

Aural Pleasure 

It’s dark in Detroit: The Go ride a haunted beat ontheir newest release.

M.I.A. is a graffiti artist, video director, activist, and acclaimed rapper/singer, but the Sri Lankan Brit might also qualify as her own best critic. In the midst of the new tribal call-and-response anthem “Bird Flu,” she declares that she’s “making bombs with rubber bands.”

It’s a pretty fitting description for the way her 2005 debut album, Arular, took rinky-dink elements (a Roland MC-505 Groovebox and a vocal mic) and managed to rattle cages around the world.

Her sophomore release, Kala, is intermittently more expansive, but at its core this is still skeletal music with an international scope. M.I.A. possesses neither a smooth rapping flow nor a conventional singing voice and her music is all about primal beats designed for schoolyard chants. Through the power of her self-possession and her grand vision, however, she makes world music that’s of the moment: playful, political, and brimming with pop’s urgency to be heard.

When she quotes Jonathan Richman’s “Roadrunner” for the opening “Bamboo Batanga,” or samples the Clash’s “Straight to Hell” for “Paper Planes,” it makes just as much sense as when she turns “Jimmy,” an odd tale of unrequited love on a “genocide tour” of Rwanda and Darfur, into a lush Bollywood disco number. When she’s tackling hip-hop, as with “Mango Pickle Down River,” she makes familiar beats seem strange and unpredictable. Conversely, when she uses world rhythms that are exotic to Western ears, her buoyant charisma carries you along for the tour.

With Kala, M.I.A. has added to her collection of rubber bands, and she’s still making bombs.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the San Antonio Current Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the San Antonio Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

Read the Digital Print Issue

July 14, 2021

View more issues


Join SA Current Newsletters

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.


© 2021 San Antonio Current

Website powered by Foundation