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  • Interview: M.I.A.

    Tue, 21 Aug 2007 13:02:37

    Interview: M.I.A. - "Three 6 Mafia told me, 'Girl, you just too gangsta.' And I was like, 'Well, it's not that I'm too gangsta. I'm just not scared.'"

    M.I.A. Photos

    • M.I.A. - GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: Mathangi 'Maya' Arulpragasam, aka M.I.A, performs live on stage on the West Holts stage during Day One of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Pilton on June 27, 2014 in Glastonbury, England. Tickets to the event, which is now in its 44th year, sold out in minutes even before any of the headline acts had been confirmed. The festival, which started in 1970 when several hundred hippies paid £1, now attracts more than 175,000 people.
    • M.I.A. - GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: Mathangi 'Maya' Arulpragasam, aka M.I.A, performs live on stage on the West Holts stage during Day One of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Pilton on June 27, 2014 in Glastonbury, England. Tickets to the event, which is now in its 44th year, sold out in minutes even before any of the headline acts had been confirmed. The festival, which started in 1970 when several hundred hippies paid £1, now attracts more than 175,000 people.
    • M.I.A. - GLASTONBURY, ENGLAND - JUNE 27: Mathangi 'Maya' Arulpragasam, aka M.I.A, performs live on the West Holts stage during Day One of the Glastonbury Festival at Worthy Farm in Pilton on June 27, 2014 in Glastonbury, England. Tickets to the event, which is now in its 44th year, sold out in minutes even before any of the headline acts had been confirmed. The festival, which started in 1970 when several hundred hippies paid £1, now attracts more than 175,000 people.

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    M.I.A. Videos

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    Fleeing Visa issues, a hype hangover and a personal meltdown, Sri Lankan rap sensation M.I.A. spent the last year traveling from Trinidad and Jamaica to Japan, India and Liberia. Along the way, she gathered recordings and inspiration for her second record, Kala, out now.

    The album more than lives up to its international pedigree, with a wild selection of baffling and brilliant global beats—from Bollywood disco to B-More ballads. M.I.A. spoke to ARTISTdirect about her childhood dance routines, causing madness in Jamaican clubs, mastering gutter beats at Abbey Road and recording with Timbaland.

    What was the high point of the year you spent traveling and recording Kala?

    The high point was probably Jamaica and the video for "Boyz." It was pretty amazing. I made that song partly in India, partly in Trinidad, and then I brought it to Jamaica last. It was always about Jamaican dance moves anyway. I had so much cooperation and dedication from the dancers. As soon as I played it one time and they totally got it. Nobody questioned nothing. Nobody cares, you know? It was just like, "Has it got a good beat? Does it make me wanna dance? That's enough for us."

    In the video for "Boyz," there with something like a 100 male dancers. How did you go about gathering all the guys for that?

    The first day I got down to Jamaica, [director] Jay Will took me to Dutty Fridays. When I got there it was like 5, 6 in the morning and everybody was really drunk and having a good time. Jay was introducing me to some of dancers when Beenie Man turned up. He took the song right out of my hand and gave it do the DJ. Then they just pulled it up for like 45 minutes, rewinding it and going, "this is the hottest song." They just kept pulling it up and eventually it created such a big frenzy that all the dancers started going crazy. And it just became the most important video shoot in Jamaica that week. We just got everyone to turn up.

    So you basically just let everyone do their thing.

    Jay had to direct the dancing part. It was definitely crazy. He had to go out there with a baseball bat just to control all the dancers. I took the video to England and did all the rest of the graphics in New York.

    Speaking of dancing, "Jimmy" off of your new album is a cover of one the songs from the amazing Bollywood movie Disco Dancer. Did you watch that film a lot growing up?

    I watched it in Sri Lanka... a lot. Probably every day about 20 times. I used to run away from my school when they let us out and go hide in people's houses and just watch that movie.

    So you knew that song better than probably any other song on earth.

    Yeah, exactly. When I started going to parties I always used to dance all the time, so eventually my mum hired me out as a professional party buffer. And "Jimmy" was the theme song to my dance routine for about three years. That's why I covered it.

    What was your dance routine like?

    When they throw parties in Sri Lanka they just put chairs all around the edge of the wall with this big space in the middle. They'd just eat and talk, so I'd go into the middle of dancefloor, put my boom-box down and play my cardboard cut-out of a guitar. I'd swing off the curtains, land on the table, and show off my moves to Disco Dancer. Then all the other six-year-olds would get up and dance and I'd be like, "My work here is done." Then I'd leave and they'd give me cakes and things like that. I was really, really proud. I would have been in that movie if they'd known I existed.

    What's your favorite dance number from a Bollywood or Tamil movie?

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