SHE’S a Grammy and Oscar-nominated artist hailed as the future of music who counts Madonna, Jay Z and Julian Assange among her most ardent fans.
But if she had arrived in Australia, instead of Britain, as an 11-year-old refugee 24 years ago, we would have sent her back to Sri Lanka to face near-certain death.
Trailblazing British-born, Sri-Lankan-raised Tamil graphic artist, painter, director, designer, singer and rapper, philanthropist, activist and mother M.I.A., aka ‘Maya’ Mathangi Arulpragasam, lands in Perth this weekend to join The Chemical Brothers as one of the headline acts at the Summadayze music festival.
“I’d much rather take detention in Australia over detention in Sri Lanka because at least you’re not going to be killed,” the singer said when asked about Australia’s policy of offshore processing of asylum seekers.
“Letting people into Australia isn’t going to kill anybody.”
More than 700 Sri Lankan asylum seekers have been involuntarily sent home by the Australian Government since offshore processing came into effect in August last year.
“Those people are not going back to a nice life. They’re going to get tortured and they’re going to basically live like prisoners and it’s ridiculous,” M.I.A. said.
“You know, it’s really difficult to work out the future of a minority group that is considered disposable. Can you just let them in? It’s a big enough country. Australians themselves are immigrants.
“I just feel like one day those are the things that eventually tend to be the strong link between other places. If the next 100 years is about China and India and places like that, then it’s OK that you’ve got immigrants coming in at the beginning of this millennium and in 100 or 50 years or 20 years those kids will also bridge the gap and be Australian people who can also relate to those nations.
“I don’t think it’s about isolating those people. It’s about embracing them because that’s the future.”
The Born Free and Paper Planes (Oscar-nominated for the film Slumdog Millionaire) singer says her record company has stalled the release of her highly anticipated fourth album, Matangi, the follow-up to her 2010 international hit Maya, because it is “too positive”.
The album title is a reference to her birth name, Mathangi, and a Hindu goddess of wisdom.
“It’s due in April, which is the Tamil new year – April 15th – and I’m still working on it,” she says.
“I thought I’d finished it. I finished it and then I handed the record in, like a couple of months ago …
“At the moment, I’ve been told it’s too positive. So we’re having a bit of an issue at the label.
“They’re like ‘You need to like darken it up a bit’. I don’t know what it is but as soon as I work that out …
And M.I.A., the artist who flipped the bird live on TV during her performance at last year’s Super Bowl, is agreeing to that?
“No, I’m taking my time to decide what they mean. It’s an interesting one for me,” she says.
“It’s like ‘We just built you up as the public enemy No. 1 and now you’re coming out with all this positive stuff.”
So why indulge them?
“Well, that’s the point of being positive,” she says, laughing.
Perhaps she’ll have to Wikileak the album online, in the spirit of her 2010 ViCKi LEEKX mixtape, inspired by Australian activist, Julian Assange.
“Yeah, I know. That’s the thing. I might have to go in there and help the Australian brother (Assange) out,” M.I.A. says, laughing.
“That’s the other thing. I have the record label. They’re like ‘Give me the record, where’s your record?’. And then at the same time, I have Julian Assange Wikileaks saying, ‘Where’s your record?’. As an artist I’ve done both before, so it’s like really interesting.”
MIA composed the theme music to Assange’s TV show The World Tomorrow and was invited to hear the Australian activist’s speech from the Ecuadorian embassy in London in August last year, posting images of Assange taken from inside the building on her Twitter page.
“I am a big fan,” she says of the Wikileaks founder, the inspiration for the ViCKi LEEKX mixtape.
Like Assange, M.I.A. is used to being derided for her political views. She received a barrage of criticism for raising her middle finger during her Super Bowl performance with Madonna.
Matangi will be M.I.A.’s first album for her new label, Interscope, also home to Madonna.
“My manager who I fired is now the head of Interscope so that’s also an interesting thing for me revisiting people in different hats,” she says.
“Having to choose between people and what I’ve learnt or felt or what I think is you know, of value to the people and then what is of value to the industry are two different things.”
Fans at her club show at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre last night were due to hear the album in full after M.I.A. decided on Thursday she would use the show to get their verdict on the new material.
“The only thing I can use my Sydney show for is to run it (the new album) by my fans and just be like … there’s no way I can run this ship by my fans unless I leak it,” she says.
“I feel like what I can do is play it to them face to face and they’re just going to have to say yes-no-yes-no and then on that note, I can go back to England and finish it off.”
Source via @ Perthnow.au