Does Mathangi Maya Arulpragasam ring any bell to you? If not, think of the song ‘O...Saya’ from the Oscar-winning film ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ which was also nominated in the Best Original Song category the same year. If one has already started to hum the song then it will also be interesting to know that this famous song was co-written by the same Mathangi Maya Arulpragasam (popularly known as M.I.A) with A R Rahman for the 2008 film. And now this London-based rapper, songwriter and painter will be in Kerala to participate in the much awaited Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
M.I.A, who was nominated for an Academy and Grammy Award in a single year, will showcase her concern for environment in India through her art. “Through this platform, I want to focus on the concerns for ecology and environment as well as inclusive economic development,” says M.I.A. The artist of Sri Lankan origin will also dish out a high-voltage performance on the inaugural day of the Biennale to be held on December 12. This will be her first stage performance in India.
As an artist she wants to remove the stamp of elitism from art and culture and mainstream it for the masses. “I want to take the art out of the galleries and make it accessible for the people, especially for the young children,” says the 37-year-old artist-musician-philanthropist who is on her third visit to Kerala.
When asked what appealed her to be part of Biennale, she says, “Like music, I would like to bridge the gap between the East and the West through art forms.” Though she doesn’t reveal much about her Biennale works, she assures it will be not very serious. “It will be all fun. It won’t be too serious. I would like all children to come and see it,” says M.I.A, whose songs combine elements of electronic, dance, alternative, hip hop and world music. Her recently released ‘Bad Girls’ single has already garnered over 25 million Youtube hits.
As for her passion for conservation of nature, M.I.A bemoans that India is stuck in the 1950s ideas of the West. “West today is taking steps for a healthier life by discarding toxic chemicals and banning smoking in most cities and have started adopting a green, environmentally-adaptable life. In India, on the other hand, there is a competition between demand and supply in the service industry,” she points out. Lavishing praise on traditional and martial arts forms of Kerala she says environment is the most important thing for her in life as she embarks on a new phase of her career. “For artists, music is a form to explain their views to the masses. Art is like a big jigsaw to put things in place. Biennale can bridge the gap between art and expression; it will create a dialogue (between the two cultures). It will make the Indian art accepted and presented at international platforms,” says the artist.
M.I.A is the only artist in history to be nominated for an Academy Award, Grammy Award, Brit Award, Mercury Prize and Alternative Turner Prize, and the first artist of Asian descent to be nominated for an Academy and Grammy Award in the same year. About her future projects, she says a new single will come out next month. A documentary is also to follow. The singer, who has also come out with a book ‘MIA’ says it speaks about her evolution as a singer and artist. The book delves into the five years that cover the production and release of her three LPs: Arular, Kala and Maya.