M.I.A. - Kala

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

The desire to seek culture and tradition from outside one’s own backyard to influence your art and music is nothing new--from The Beatles through Marc Bolan, Paul Simon and up to Damon Albarn with his Mali Music, evidence is rife even in the mainstream. The only problem for M.I.A (aka London born Maya Arulpragasam) is that her backyard was flung far and wide in the first instance, growing up as she did in the UK, India and Sri Lanka--which may go some way to explaining the bewildering, fragrant, intoxicating mesh of sounds, rhythms and head-on sonic clashes that surge willfully throughout her second album, Kala--the result of her own personal voyage of artistic discovery. She’s absorbed, in addition to her own eclectic electro beginnings, aboriginal hip-hop, Jamaican dancehall, Liberian and Trinidadian influences, also finding the time to work with Timbaland (not nearly, incidentally, the highlight of the record). On "Mango Pickle Down River" she sounds like Missy Elliot shuffling in a didgeridoo with a rapping children’s choir she picked up somewhere en route, while the fittingly titled "World Town" is grime arriving on an asteroid during a tribal ceremony with sound effects ranging from a cocked gun to apparent digitized bagpipes. Considering how out-of-this-world-original M.I.A’s Mercury-nominated debut Arular was it is a rare delight that she’s progressed with such resolute surefootedness, losing none of her intrigue. You’ve got a lot of miles to cover to catch her up, let’s put it that way. --James Berry

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