Who Is M.I.A?

M.I.A. (Mathangi Arulpragasam)

Fame comes to musical artists in many different ways. Epic performances and/or recordings have been just the boost that some musicians have needed to make them household names. Maybe performing in front of a very large television audience like half time at the Super Bowl would bring needed fame. Such was the case this year as Madonna headlined with several other performers: Nicki Minaj, Cee lo Green and M.I.A. However, M.I.A. made news for what many considered a lewd gesture she made during her performance.  Most folks close to my age wondered who M.I.A. is… Is she just another young rapper who had no business on such a large stage with Madonna? I must admit I knew some of her music but not much about her background.  M.I.A. was born July 18, 1975 Mathangi Arulpragasam in Hounslow, London to Hindu parents of Sri Lankan Tamil descent. M.I.A.’s father became a political activist and the family moved to Sri Lanka when M.I.A. was six months old. She spent most of her young life living in poverty and in hiding, her father having limited contact with the family, but she also said her life in Jaffna gave her some of her happiest memories. Then she spent her adolescence and young adult life back in London as a refugee. In June 2001, M.I.A. received her undergraduate degree in fine art, film and video from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. This gave her a start as an artist working in film and paintings before beginning to work with music. M.I.A. also periodically lived in Crenshaw, Los Angeles and the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York.  With a brief look at some of M.I.A’s background we can see more than just a young person getting started in music. She is an accomplished, well-traveled and educated musician.  In addition, M.I.A. is a young mother who gave birth to her son in February 2009. When you listen to her music you can feel her life experiences clearly which gives her music wide appeal. As with most artists M.I.A. is unapologetic when it comes to her beliefs and ideas and any statements she feels she must make through music or not. Why did she make the gesture on stage? Who knows? She may tell us one day. Maybe her gesture will make folks who have not heard about her listen to her music. Not impossible. Only time will tell if most in the world can stop asking, who is M.I.A.?

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