As well as their 75 Books thing, Esquire did a feature on the”The 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century“.
Now, DAME Magazine pointed out, only 8.5 entries on the list were women, but aside from that lameness, I have a bone to pick with contributor David Chang (or the relevant editor) about a couple of things mentioned in the entry for M.I.A. —
The first and only major artist in world music, 33. Everywhere
Earlier this year, Sri Lankan-British rapper M.I.A. announced she was giving up music for clothing design. Maybe it was the exhaustion talking, but get to know her story and the first thing that becomes apparent is that she’s not one for staying in one place for very long. Here, a country-by-country guide to her transnational life, which directly informs her unclassifiable and revolutionary music.
ENGLAND: Born in London.
SRI LANKA: Her father, Arul, a Tamil revolutionary, cofounded a militant Tamil group. Her debut album is named Arular after him. Album art features images of tanks, bombs, and tigers.
INDIA: Childhood residence, age six to nine. The song “Jimmy” is based on an early-’80s Bollywood disco hit. “Bamboo Banga” samples Indian Tamil film composer Ilaiyaraaja. “Birdflu” features Indian dhol drums.
AUSTRALIA: Recording location for the album Kala. Features a didgeridoo and the Wilcannia Mob, a gang of aboriginal child beat-boxers, in “Mango Pickle Down River.”
LIBERIA:Kala location. “Do you know the cost of AK’s up in Africa / $20 ain’t shit to you but that’s how much they are” (“20 Dollar”).
JAMAICA:Kala location. Dance-hall rhythms, steel drums. “Boyz” video features Kingston “rudies.”
NEW YORK: Resident since 2005. In the video for “Paper Planes,” she sings from inside a New York lunch truck. Modeled for a Marc Jacobs spring/summer 2008 campaign. Announced that she will launch a clothing line.
I agree her work makes her pretty influential. (From what I can gather, the hipsters these days totes heart her.) I have no qualms about most of the things about her in that piece. But that one particular section about her time in Sri Lanka, and, more specifically, her father?
I could just say it was a Choice of Words FAIL, but, you know, I am not known for brevity, and as much as I may try, I need to say a bit more.
My letter to the Editors of Esquire was as follows:
I write to express some concern about David Chang’s choice of words in his piece on M.I.A. in the “The 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century” feature.
I question the description of M.I.A’s father as “Tamil revolutionary, [who] cofounded a militant Tamil group”.
That Tamil group is not just a militant group, but has been listed as a banned terrorist organisation under your country’s Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002.
That group pioneered the use of suicide bombing, has assassinated two heads of state, and has been linked to providing training and funding to Al Queda.
This information bulletin from the FBI provides even more details: http://www.fbi.gov/page2/jan08/tamil_tigers011008.html
M.I.A.’s father, the name sake of both her albums, is not a “revolutionary”, but a terrorist, and a lot of her lyrics have been suggested to support the work of the terrorist organisation he belongs to.
The cover-art for “Arular”, which, as noted in your publication, “features images of tanks, bombs, and tigers” links directly to that terrorist organisation.
I would suggest doing some research so as to make sure you call a spade a spade when writing about these people you describe as “influential”.
There are reports that a suicide bomber from the Tamil Tigers killed 22 people today.
When the FBI describes a group as “needless to say … among the most dangerous and deadly extremists in the world”, there is little room for the terrorist/freedom fighter debate.
By the way. M.I.A. has intrigued me for some time, and I have been planning to do a bit of research (you know, more than googling) to write a proper piece about her for a little while. So watch this space.
(Pic via her MySpace page. Which makes my eyes bleed. Consider that a pre-click warning.)