Monday, March 7, 2011

Sinéad O'Connor versus MIA

I really dont know how to start, Oppressed peoples, historically or in recent times. Two songs from Sinéad O'Connor and one from M.I.A.

As this is a blog catering to Sri Lankan (hopefully) lets start with the Irish context, hopefully educational. (I am used to doing point form so let me go with that). To start with I love Sinéad O'Connor's music, and f**k you attitude heard here in her version of I don't know how to love him (re Judas) from Jesus Christ Superstar)
  • Sinéad O'Connor sings about the Vikings who invaded around 800 -1200 (approximately Parakramabahu 1123-1186 times).
  • Then she sings about Cromwell who invaded and occupied Ireland in 1649. By this time the Portuguese had conquered Jaffna and occupied coastal Sri Lanka.
  • Finally Sinéad O'Connor sings about the Irish Famine, consequence of real English jack boot laws that in the 17th and 18th centuries prohibited Irish Catholics with penal laws from owning land, from leasing land; from voting, from holding political office; from living in a corporate town or within 5 mi (8.0 km) of a corporate town, from obtaining education, from entering a profession, and from doing many other things that are necessary in order to succeed and prosper in life. Thats around the time the England occupied the whole of Sri Lanka, i.e. 1800's.
For summary do we Sri Lankans really think, or even have music that really makes us sad about the past, even as late as the British occupation in the early 1850's. My friend thinks British colonialism was the best for Ceylon.

Now next to M.I.A. In 2005 couple of NYC Williamsburg hipster room mates mentioned that I should see this Sri Lankan woman who was going to perform at Summerstage NYC. Managed to sneak in and it was crowded. The next time M.I.A. was around at the Mermaid Festival. Do have a photo (see here). I love seeing a real representative south south Asian woman, such as M.I.A. i.e. skinny black/brown woman hitting the charts. Doesn't hurt thats the kind of looks I like.

Back to Politics and M.I.A. Does she have a video or one that even articulates her Sri Lankan /Eelam ideas. Compared and contrasted to Sinéad O'Connor's heartfelt songs about the the oppression of the Irish by the English, M.I.A seems sadly lacking. To the contrary of what little political message she sings, she has sold out and joined the establishment. i.e. she

"speaks about terrorism and Sri Lankan politics and all the while lives in a fancy house in a tony neighborhood with her billionaire husband."

Bottom line, M.I.A. cant articulate what if any oppression the Tamils have had, just a lot of "Agitprop Pop" music. The music is good, but M.I.A. is probably a milquetoast messenger advocating war for moralfags.

1 comment:

  1. On the contrary, I think M.I.A. has transgressed the typical criticisms of institutions with conglomerates better than anyone I've seen of this generation of artists. She's implicit yet at the same time explicit with her criticisms. Her use of metaphor and allegory to portray issues instead of sheer berating is pretty clever. I think she's completely got the game wound about her finger. She's infiltrated popular culture using a passive approach that speaks louder than it looks. While she's "joined the establishment" she brought with her support for rights and inserted political messages and awareness into pop culture, something that's pretty hard to do with pop culture almost exclusively on sexual themes. Her style of music as well is completely novel, even deviating from typical electronic sounds. She's even managed to highlight South Asian beats and style through her music, videos, and art. Her music shouldn't be taken at face value. It's ambiguous to retain satirical elements. I think the girl is pure genius. She is truly an artist as she doesn't just focus on her music. She designs clothing, and makes art that demonstrates her political spectrum. Her criticisms not just for Sri Lanka, but for people in other countries, have made her somewhat of a universal advocate for oppressed peoples.