British-Sri Lankan Rapper/Singer-Songwriter M.I.A. performed during the Superbowl Halftime show alongside Madonna and Nicki Minaj, but this groundbreaking musician has built a following from the British indie underground up, and she’s only getting bigger. Find out more about M.I.A. in her Kidzworld Bio.
Mathangi “Maya” Arupulgar, who we know as M.I.A. (a play on "Missing In Action" and on her initials), was born in Britain but her parents are originally for Sri Lanka. Her father is a writer, engineer and activist, and her mother is a seamstress. She and her sister Kala moved back to Sri Lanka with their parents when they were very young to a small Tamil town (Tamil people are a minority in Sri Lanka because of their religion, Hinduism).
M.I.A.’s father adopted a new name in his native country and became highly involved with Tamil politics, civil war raged in Sri Lanka between the Tamils and the government and for nine years her family went into hiding from the Sri Lankan army. M.I.A saw very little of her father and she and her sister and mother lived in poverty. Despite the war and the hiding M.I.A. developed a strong talent for art during her high school years, especially painting. The violence escalated and M.I.A.’s family moved to India for a short time, but after experiencing more violence from soldiers eventually relocated to Britain once more. Her father stayed behind to act as a peace mediator between the rebels and the government in Sri Lanka.
Back in England M.I.A. learned how to speak English and her mother worked as seamstress for the British Royal Family to support her family. M.I.A. went to a famous art school, Central Saint Martin’s College and earned her degree. She studied fine art and film.
Activist Artist to Musical Mastermind
Before she was known for her music, M.I.A was hailed as an artist to watch. She created cutting edge visual art that combined her experiences in Sri Lanka and England. She also met many musicians and created artwork and film for other bands. Eventually music itself caught her interest and soon she was creating her own unique sound by combining as many genres as possible: dancehall, Britpop, electroclash, rap – you name it!
Pretty soon M.I.A. was an underground sensation, and DJ and music snobs were blasting her mix-matches sounding dance hits and passing on her mixtapes. It wasn’t long before she released her first album Arular featuring the songs “Sunshowers” and “Galang.”
Arular was a success and M.I.A. followed it up with the even more successful albums Kala and Maya. Wanting to help other innovative and unsigned musicians and visual artists, M.I.A. created her own label N.E.E.T. She isn’t just an artist and a musician, she’s also a mother! She gave birth to her son in 2009, and fans are awaiting a new album after the release of her video for “Bad Girls.”
Did You Know...
Actor Jude Law was one of the first people to buy artwork made by M.I.A., back when she was completely unknown!
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