Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam arrived in London in the mid-1980s, as part of Sri Lanka’s first wave of Tamil refugees, where she was raised in a women-led household in South London’s impoverished peripheries.
Life in public housing exposed her to a patchwork of marginalized peoples and cultures which later came to influence her musical career as the award-winning artist M.I.A. Her multi-platinum selling hit single “Paper Planes”––a wry skewering of immigrant stereotypes––was received with critical acclaim and peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in 2008. She was also nominated by the Academy and Grammy Awards, becoming the first artist of Asian descent to receive both nominations in the same year.
From Arular to Kala, Maya to Matangi, M.I.A. has created an identifiable, transnational, mashed-up sound, lending her voice for those deprived of their own, and rendering disenfranchisement into a powerful catalyst for resistance.