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New world music

M.I.A. - Kala
(Interscope Records)
3 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Aug. 28, 2007

Review by Tony Bonyata

On M.I.A.'s sophomore full length effort, Kala, the London-born and Sri Lanka-reared artist has raised the bar for not only her own eclectic music, but also a number of other genres. Mixing rap, reggae, London Grime, indie rock and electronica with often politically charged lyrics the 30 year-old singer, whose real name is Maya Arulpragasam, has produced a dizzying, exhilarating collection of dance music.

On her song "Paper Planes" M.I.A. uses gunfire and the ring of cash registers to rhythmically drive home her point as she sings "All I wanna do is (bang bang bang)... and (ka-ching) take your money," after she points out on her number "$20," which effectively lifts the melody from New Order's "Blue Monday" while also stitching in lyrics from the Pixies, that AK47 assault rifles only cost twenty bucks in Africa.

As it turns out, however, M.I.A. is much more effective at starting a riot on the dance floor than when she's on her soapbox trying to raise consciousness about war and Third World plight. Many of her political sentiments seem as if they're crafted around her beats and rhythms, which really isn't a problem since she's obviously much more of an artist than activist. The undeniable tribal beats and electro-shock treatment on songs like "Boyz" and "Bird Flu," as well as the schmaltzy disco that somehow works on "Jimmy," are perfect examples of how effective she is at creating challenging modern dance music. She also manages to inject a dirty groove into the hypnotic "Mango Pickle Down River," and the infectious closing track "Come Around," which also features producer/rapper Timbaland, is a wonderful amalgamation of hip/hop, jazz and funk.

Often silly and at times seemingly disposable, M.I.A.'s Kala is, nonetheless, an intoxicating brand of new world-music guaranteed to get you moving.

Watch M.I.A. - "Bird Flu" video

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