M.I.A. is a compelling performer in many ways, but I’m particularly interested in her as a woman of color artist with (sometimes unpopular) opinions that she’s not afraid to express. After releasing a few singles off of it earlier in the year, her new record is out – Matangi, check it out! In her interview promoting the album on NPR she hit on a lot of interesting things about her life and her path as an artist, but I was most interested in the comparison she made to herself and the boy from the KONY 2012 video, calling out the white savior industrial complex:
One is a story where an American person goes to Uganda and picks out the story, puts it into context and then uploads it to YouTube, and then a lot of Americans can understand it. And me, I can be in the same category as Jacob, but I did the journey myself — nobody had to come to my village and save me and articulate my story. I’d learned the language myself, I built the platform myself, got to a microphone myself, got nominated for a Grammy and an Oscar the same month, to make the biggest platform possible in America. Then I told the story — and it didn’t translate. A lot of people were like, “Just make music; don’t talk about politics.” But I was in a very difficult position: I was the only Tamil rapper [on the international stage], so when a whole bunch of Tamil people were dying, I had to tell you about it.
The whole interview is worth a read (or listen!). Check it out.
Veronica Bayetti Flores is an immigrant queer writer, domestic artist, and music video enthusiast.