M.I.A., DeLon, and the Tamil Tigers

I heard from Sepia Mutiny’s post about M.I.A. getting “dissed” by DeLon, a new rapper of Sri Lankan descent. DeLon took M.I.A.’s most popular song, “Paper Planes,” called out her politics and support of the Tamil Tigers, and shows the “terrorist” side of that group. (You can see the disturbing video here.)

I don’t know enough about the situation in Sri Lanka to really make judgments. But DeLon’s video bothered me because he is employing exactly the same strategy that the Bush administration does: creating a dichotomy of good and evil, and using the word “terrorist” like it’s not subjective.

That said, I have always been a bit skeptical of M.I.A’s politics. Is she just projecting an irresistible (lucrative) image, or is she actually doing anything? When I went to her show at McCarren Pool in June, it made me a bit uncomfortable to be dancing around with a bunch of hipsters in Brooklyn while she has images of children from developing countries flashing across the back of the stage as her visual aids.

That’s part of the brilliance of M.I.A.’s whole persona. Her music, and the visual effects in her shows, and even her voice, are so flashy and noisy and chaotic. But I mean that in the best way possible. She seems to represent our generation of media-saturated, globalized, de-sensitized minds. And she is somehow able to shout over all the noise.

After the show, I was filled with energy for at least 24 hours. But it wasn’t noisy and aimless energy, like the energy the concert seemed to evoke. It was productive and creative and even peaceful energy; I remember I felt like writing all day after waking up the next morning. And that could be one small example of how art can make a difference. Of course she’s not going to change the plight of poor people by singing about it to a bunch of hipsters. But I do think there was something remarkable about that energy.

Going back to the “diss” I was initially talking about: It seems obvious that DeLon is doing this as a publicity stunt too. I guess that’s kind of the point of both politics and the music industry, though.

Maybe they can make peace and do a song together?


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8 Responses to “M.I.A., DeLon, and the Tamil Tigers”

  1. JT Dismay Says:

    How much do you know whats happening in Sri Lanka? I dont wnat get into the any “subjective” debate about the word terrorism. All I know is that she provides propaganda to a ruthless terrorist group that has killed thousands of innocent civilians. However, for anyone coming from a Sri Lankan background, it is not difficult understand. Also, you are refering to the “terrorist” side of things. Do you know any other side of the Tamil Tigers? May be you are also aware of the use of child soldiers, extortion, credit card scams and drugs/weapons smuggling.

    May be for you MIA represents your generation of media-saturated, globalized, de-sensitized minds. For us, she represents the killers who brutally killed my neighbour, a mother of two who had nothing to do with politics. She was returning from work, and was killed when the Tiger killers started shooting down the civilians after missing their main target (a politician).

  2. steve Says:

    Well, It’s obvious the Sri Lankan community are unable to understand the art, depth of creative expression.
    I doubt the Sri Lankan people ever gave MIA anything and there fore she doesnt have to give anything back. All they do us FUME with Jealousy and show the world, why there is a war going on for 20 years. Their hatred and unwelcoming to Tamils success is showing. This is why the war began, because The SIngeles people wanted TAMILS to give up their language, culture, and religion. and when we fled to find our own and have our own abroad, scattered across the world because of the war. The Singelese people find it furiating, so the track down the ONLY FEW Tamil people with some success express culture and language and thought.

    And here we have a war, seeping through the internet to bring the Tamil children down. These people need to realise, they have destroyed a country and their race/nation all on their own. And Delun is a Clear example of a SINGELESE BOY, Who has very CONFUSED cultural understanding. His songs are stolen from BLACK AMERICANs HIP HOP and Puerto Rican mix, and has blond girls and only white girls in his videos. He’s a JOKE. talking about SRI LANKAN PEOPLE.
    Please go seek self promotion else where.
    At MIA’s concert, we see Singelese and Tamil children singing and dancing side by side. They unite at her concerts.

  3. Nguoc Says:

    Universal employee overheard in club last night talking about mad VIRAL MARKETING push by Univ. to get ton of fake blog/forum comments posted fast to counter tidal wave of public interest in the M.I.A./DeLon rap issue (her alledged terror support.)

    So this is how UMG does it? Paying people to post fake comments on the web? The employ (who definitely drank too much) said they have database of fake aliases and each day staff take turns posting fake comments on blogs.

  4. abbycopuyoc Says:

    I would love to see them do a song together. If anything, that would help unite Sri Lanka, and finally see beyond our differences. We’re all from the same country! I think if they went hand in hand to fight terrorism and further the new movement for peace and unity, it will have tremendous impact.

  5. sensemeyer Says:

    So it is ok for the LTTE and mia to use her videos to highlight LTTE propaganda? They do, but many are thankful for Delon for speaking up because the LTTE has been keeping sri lankan in fear with their suicide bombings and unrealistic demands. Her music is not brilliant, paper airplane sounds like reggae on valium.

    only someone desperate for publicity would climb up on blood as mia did few days after the tsunami, and she hyped up the ltte name.

    m i a is obviously a liar.

    everything is not just black and white and there are shades of gray, but if one side only want people to hear their view, and only agree with them (because ltte does bomb over disagreements -no one can disagree with them) so ltte keeps the controlled fear. ask questions get your facts right.

    tamils were not oppressed, sinhalese are a tolerant people that is why lanka is so integrated with other ethnicities. they lived side by side. thousands of years ago tamils came to invade sri lanka from south india, they did so continuously, then when british were there, tamils were given high positions in government, many of these people did not help sinhalese defeat colonialism, and now they want a separate homeland. sri lanka is a small island, there is not even more room for a separate house. now again in the form of ltte extremist tamils continue to harrass and taunt sinhalese. extremist tamils make general statements, sinhalese make statement based on fact. if sinhalese make a fair view, saying ‘we accept blame for some mistakes, and we know we did not make other mistakes, many ltte will oppress sinhalese more, ltte will never admit they are wrong in anything. is that fair? so the world is not fair right? so are u saying if we are for peace we are wrong, if we speak up we are wrong, but m i a and ltte can do what ever but it is ok because they are seen as freedom fighters. for whose freedom are they fighting for?

    the blame goes for sri lankan government for not nipping terrorism in the bud. and people who are easily brainwashed by flashing colors and lights. just because m i a got the ltte message out first, it does not make them right.

    Yeah, according to her, her dad was one of the founders of the LTTE:

    She grew up in civil-war torn Sri Lanka — a 22-year conflict that’s killed 65,000, currently under an uneasy ceasefire — as the daughter of one of the founders of the Tamil Tigers, a guerrilla organization that has been classified as terrorists by the US government and accused of recruiting child soldiers by UNICEF.

    “That’s why I wrote the song ‘Sunshowers,'” Maya says over the phone from Berlin before a gig. “You can’t separate the world into two parts like that, good and evil. Terrorism is a method. But America has successfully tied all these pockets of independent struggles, revolutions and extremists into one big notion of terrorism.”

    Most brazenly, she shout-outs the Palestinians (“Like P.L.O., we don’t surrend-o”) but also sprinkles guerrilla imagery like she salts and peppers her mango, chatting about snipers, bomb blasts and street-side murders. The India-filmed video replaces hip-hop’s familiar housing-project backdrop with a lush, tiger-filled jungle through which M.I.A. stalks, and even the sweetly sung chorus, interpolated from a similarly-named ’70s single, takes a threatening turn in Maya’s hands: “And some showers I’ll be aiming at you / ‘Cause I’m watching you, my baby.”

    Not surprisingly, MTV has requested she clarify the song with a statement before they’ll screen the video.

    “My answer to that is that when you watch TV and flick onto the news channel, that’s what’s shown and they don’t have to censor that,” Maya says. “I wrote this song as a chicken-and-egg story: who’s attacking who, who is good, who is evil. You can’t grab someone by the neck and choke them and then complain they’re kicking you. If you’re going around oppressing people, they will fight back.”

    “I’d seen people die by the time I left,” she says. “That’s as bad as it could get, when you see people from your village disappearing and not coming back. One minute they’re doctors and really respected and the next they’re in wheelchairs because they’ve been ‘accidentally’ shot. My school was burned down. My family’s house was burned down. When we tried to leave Sri Lanka with my mom, the buses we were on would get stopped in the middle of nowhere and people would be taken off and killed.

    Her album Arular is named after her dad’s rebel codename.

  6. Peace not Death Says:

    First of all I’m not sure if you don’t see what the hell is happening. I’ve lived in America my whole life and I’ve seen how ignorant people are, and just become I am in highschool, doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s goning on. I see the kids with their pot, their crack, the pregnant girls, all along people listening to whatever the hell they want, but a lot of kids aren’t listening to what’s happening in these songs. Most don’t even know that Georgia is even a country, more that SL doesn’t even exist. Yeah, if you look at it in the musically artistic perspective MIA has some good beats, but the MESSAGE, you tell me if it’s wrong to promote terrorists, the very thing we are fighting against in Iraq, people hate the war, hate the terrorist, want them to suffer for the pain they caused…hmmm, yet they let people suffer against the same thing in Sri Lanka. Why is it that terrorists can’t kill in America, but can in a 3rd world country??? Are they not important? Everytime you buy a song or a piece of merchandise from this girl, you’re just funneling money to terrorists. You are killing another person, helping suicide bombers. I have family back there and I know both Sinhalese and Tamil, and Im afraid, afraid of the fear they have to face, they cant even ride the bus without the danger of getting bombed. So go ahead, provide money to these terrorist, but you should feel guilty when people are dying, innocent school kids and poor people getting blown to bits just for your musical enjoyment, think about that at night, would these deaths only matter if they were your brother or mother??? MIA’s story is only one-sided, and if you look closer you’ll see that she is just another killer an accomplice to death. So you might as well go to jail as an accomplice to murder if you support her.

    Make your decision.

  7. M.I.A, DeLon, and the Tamil Tigers at Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture Says:

    […] by Guest Contributor Joanna Eng, originally published at DJ Jojo […]

  8. damitha Says:

    “Well, It’s obvious the Sri Lankan community are unable to understand the art, depth of creative expression.’ – LOL.
    Just for the information of this brilliant American (Steve) Sri Lanka has a written history of nearly 3000 years backed by archeological facts, and I’m talking about full grown civilization and not dinosaurs! Sri Lankan music and forms of art including dance are ten thousand generations ahead of hip hop and Afro music in evolution and maybe only second to Indian and Egyptian forms of art.
    It’s extremely amusing to see an American with a rented culture and civilization commenting on Sri Lankan taste. GET A LIFE OR GET A HISTORY LESSON.

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