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Strikes the senses in guerilla fashion

Turner Hall
Milwaukee, WI
May 12, 2008
M.I.A. M.I.A. M.I.A.

Story by Matt Schwenke
Photos courtesy CJ Foeckler

With familial ties to a militant rebel movement in her native Sri Lanka, Maya Arulpragasam, a.k.a. M.I.A. and currently based in London, has a brazen approach to her art, both musically and visually, that strikes the senses in a guerilla fashion, combining ultra urban with jungle wild. And without explicitly laying down any political rhetoric, M.I.A.'s calls to action, as part of some sort of guerilla art movement, come through her music and imagery alone.

The opening of her show at Turner Hall began with video of an unidentifiable (either little-known or completely fictionary) East Asian political figure calling for the overthrow of an unnamed government, after which M.I.A. hit the stage announcing her arrival loudly with the rowdy "Bamboo Banga" from her 2007 release Kala. With her lyrics often indecipherable in her louder songs throughout the night, M.I.A.'s vocals still translated through textures, as in the chunky hip-hop of "Bucky Done Gun" and "Pull Up The People" from her 2005 debut Arular. With the chest-shaking bass turned down a bit, M.I.A. offered up her most melodic and diva-like offerings in the tumbling "Sunshowers" and cosmic "Jimmy," during which a host of the ladies near the front were brought up on stage to dance. Making way for a host of the gentlemen near the stage, M.I.A. welcomed them with the bombastic beats of "Boyz," which was only matched in joint-popping rhythms by "Bird Flu."

As the crowd was doused with an array of film, photos, primitive computer graphics and imagery, M.I.A., a DJ, backup singer/dancer and dancer had nearly the entire sold-out crowd dancing while keeping the crowd's focus glued to the stage. There were only a few bits of banter-- one in which M.I.A. referred to Milwaukee as a college town, which is understandable considering the majority of the crowd was college age-- but more importantly, M.I.A.'s experimental, genre-defying art left an incredibly diverse crowd (in style) satisfied at the end of her show with an encore performance of the hit "Paper Planes."

Related articles:

Voodoo Music Experience 2007 - New Orleans, LA - Oct. 2007
Lollapalooza 2007 - Chicago, IL - Aug. 2007
M.I.A. - Kala - CD Review - Aug. 2007
M.I.A. M.I.A.


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