THIS CD FEATURES A FREE RINGTONE AND MOBILE PHONE WALLPAPER (see insert for details) M.I.A. is hailed as one of the most freshly creative artists to hit the scene, paving the way for fierce and adventurous females to br... more »eak the mold. With KALA, she pulls even more globe-trekking, and genre bending into her musical mix. Recorded in India, Trinidad, Australia, London, New York and Baltimore, M.I.A. has crafted an international sound that is as excitingly undefineable as it is infectious. The first single from KALA, "Boyz" was just listed at #1 Rolling Stone's Hot List, and #1 song of the Month in Blender magazine! "Electrifying" - The New York Times« less
THIS CD FEATURES A FREE RINGTONE AND MOBILE PHONE WALLPAPER (see insert for details) M.I.A. is hailed as one of the most freshly creative artists to hit the scene, paving the way for fierce and adventurous females to break the mold. With KALA, she pulls even more globe-trekking, and genre bending into her musical mix. Recorded in India, Trinidad, Australia, London, New York and Baltimore, M.I.A. has crafted an international sound that is as excitingly undefineable as it is infectious. The first single from KALA, "Boyz" was just listed at #1 Rolling Stone's Hot List, and #1 song of the Month in Blender magazine! "Electrifying" - The New York Times
"M.I.A.'s (Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam) amazing debut album, Arular, garnered many dedicated fans. One of them just happened to be mega-producer Timbaland. He was so enthusiastic, in fact, that he wanted to work with her for her sophomore release. Of course Maya obliged and she even cried tears of happiness. But before she could begin collaborating with him, a little--okay, a big--obstacle came up; the Sri Lankan was not allowed to enter the United States for ten months due to visa troubles. Some artists would just quit right then and there, but that's not how she operates. M.I.A. figured that if she couldn't come into the US, then she would go and create her art everywhere else on the globe. And that's what she did. Kala was recorded in many locations, including India, London, Australia, Africa and Trinidad.
Maya's first album, named after her father, was raw and unapologetically fierce. M.I.A. herself admitted the album was rather "masculine." However, Kala is, among other things, softer and more personal. It's only right that she named it after her mother. Maya's father doesn't think mom deserves the privilege. (Supposedly, the two are very competitive). But I would have to disagree with Papa Arulpragasam. When he left his family to become a freedom fighter, his jobless wife had to support her children and provide for them. Not only is she deserving of the title for respect's sake, but also because her struggle is represented in many of the songs. In tracks like "$20," Maya sounds less like the rambunctious girl we met on her debut and more like a tired and slightly bitter mother who has seen the cruelty of the world, trying to find hope and meaning somewhere. But still... there's strength! Power. (In the absolute best way possible, of course).
The album opens perfectly with the minimalist, shuffling mid-tempo beat of "Bamboo Banga." About two minutes into the song, the beat picks up and grows in complexity and Maya announces triumphantly that she is coming back with "powah powah!" (Couldn't have said it better myself). Up next is the energetic "Bird Flu," complete with the chanting of little village girls, booming tribal drums and the "ba-gok!" of chickens. "Boyz" is a fun and quirky summer jam that sounds straight out of a street parade. The track is laced with a collage of drums, an infectious "how many" vocal sample and whistling. "Jimmy" is a slightly reworked/re-written version of a Bollywood song Maya used to sing at parties for money as a child. The disco track is thoroughly entertaining with addictive strings and some electronic beeps added for a modern touch. While it is very different from anything M.I.A. has created before, it is a very welcome addition to the album for me. "Hussel" is the first song on here that takes on the serious tone I mentioned earlier. Over the ominous, synth-heavy production, which sounds straight out of a rainforest, Maya raps about the hustle and grind of raising money to help family and friends in need. Guest artist Afrikan Boy adds a nice universal touch. Speaking of guest artists, "Mango Pickle Down River" has a group of Aboriginal kids, the Wilcannia Mob, rapping with her. They rap about their adventures together over a buzzing, bumbling track. "$20" is the epitome of the tone I mentioned in the second paragraph. It is also probably Kala's most introspective track. Maya, sounding almost defeated, spits out random deep thoughts on her mind. "World Town" is by far the track that best resembles Arular musically. Still, the lyrics fit the album's theme. "The Turn," like many of the other tracks, finds Maya... singing. She actually sounds beautiful and very unique. The lyrics say it all: "Don't bother me with your mess/ I'm trying to do my best/ Get my head up out the stress/ When the money turns the world/ Your lovin' turns to less." The meandering groove is just amazing. "XR2," which she posted on her MySpace earlier this year, is a hyperactive, percolating club track with a catchy sped-up horn sample. Her vocal delivery is almost like her own version of the Ying Yang Twins' "Whisper Song." (Except... much better). "Paper Planes" has already become a fan favorite, and rightfully so. It samples The Clash's "Straight To Hell," it's an extremely catchy song that discreetly speaks on her frustration about the visa situation, the chorus mixes roaring gunshots and cash register "cha-chings!" and it's produced by ex-boyfriend, Diplo. What's not to love? The closing track, "Come Around," is the only one produced by Timbaland. While many of Maya's fans resent the song (while others pretend it doesn't exist), I happen to love it. Sure, it's a little more mainstream than the other stuff, but it's fun, bouncy and her swagger is irresistible. It's a good way too end the album, in my opinion.
Kala is a triumph. M.I.A. was faced with terrible misfortune, but rather than sitting around defeated, she traveled around the world, interacting with the people and recording a diverse, creative and just plain amazing album. This is by far one of--if not the--best CDs I've heard all year. I highly recommend."
Mike Newmark | Tarzana, CA United States | 09/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To understand what makes Kala succeed so brilliantly is to realize why so many anti-war albums fail. Exhorting a message is easy. Getting people to sit up and pay attention is a much more formidable task, one that's proven too tall an order for the likes of the Flaming Lips, Nine Inch Nails, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, From Monument to Masses, and dozens of others. Kala sets itself apart by pulling off the neat hat trick of sounding both urgent and joyous--something that the Sri Lankan M.I.A. (née Maya Arulpragasam) managed to do with 2005's Arular, but which gets presented here to an incredible new extent. Perhaps Arulpragasam became a musician to push a point, but Kala is better poised for a club than for brow-furrowing headphone listening or a street protest; it is music first, a message second.
Surely, Kala is some of the most exciting world-electronica fusion the United States has heard since, well, Arular. The production on "Bird Flu" is so chillingly perfect that you might forget that the song has no melody to speak of. Here and elsewhere, M.I.A. exploits the universal and pleasurable properties of percussion to draw us into Kala's world; unless you actually live there, your knowledge of Sri Lankan music is probably nil, and M.I.A. is the most accessible guide one could hope for. Tribal drumming and modern-day electro exist alongside each other as naturally as oil and vinegar, while M.I.A. plays to and uproots our expectations by taking world music clichés and turning them on their heads, whether it's the hilarious pygmy-like shouts in the war-paint-covered "Bird Flu" or the ersatz strings in the 1982 Bollywood cover, "Jimmy". If anything, Kala hammers home Sri Lanka's status as a hotbed of multiculturalism. Its music is African, Indian, Middle Eastern, British and wryly American all at once, and I can imagine no better environment for an anti-war cry than one in which musical styles coexist this peacefully.
M.I.A.'s exhortation strategy is fresh, uncommon, and sledgehammer-blunt. "Fight on!", the album cover shamelessly reads, and it's clear that M.I.A. considers a move toward peace as literally that: a mobilization that requires as much force as soldiers are willing to devote to a war. Her fight-fire-with-fire approach results in music that's more bracing and confrontational than Arular while still avoiding sounding militaristic, instead coming off like a cheerleading squad that means deathly serious business. M.I.A.'s voice often feels like a drum, pounding away about the price of AK-47s in Africa, forgoing a fashion career for the sake of protest, being hassled about immigration papers and what it might be like to blow up the fighters in her dreams. She stands above the dreck as a paragon of self-confidence, while even allowing some humor to peek through on "Boyz": "How many no money boyz are crazy, how many boyz are raw? / How many no money boyz are rowdy, how many start a war?" (The `z's aren't there for nothing.) Of course, when Nigerian M.C. Afrikan Boy reproachfully spits, "You think it's tough now? Come to Africa" on "Hussel," we don't dare laugh.
Perhaps most phenomenal is how M.I.A. made a better album than Arular by grabbing the reins herself. For Kala, she aligned herself with UK house producer Switch, whose relatively hands-off approach allowed M.I.A. to have a greater say in the production and arrangements than she had on Arular (heretofore considered DJ Diplo's album above all). It shows; Kala sounds like the album M.I.A. wanted to make, all the way down to the slinky swamp song "The Turn." In fact, "Come Around" is the only track I can think of in which Timbaland's foray behind the boards actually makes the song less interesting than what surrounds it. If M.I.A. wasn't an international superstar before Kala's release, she likely will be and certainly deserves to be; this is her album, reflective of her vital personality and compelling statement of purpose at every single turn. In an era riddled with ghostwriting, lip-synching, showboating and O-Town, few recording artists alive are less deserving of M.I.A.'s own namesake than M.I.A."
An intense, body-shaking, mind-bending album.
jazz4thenight | Florida | 04/27/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Over a few years, British musician MIA - aka Mathangi Arulpragasam - has realised far-flung ambitions. Her 2005 debut album "Arular" proved an electric shock to the system, its ballsy mashup of street styles and pop hooks earning a Mercury nomination in U.K. Mia's new album "Kala" is named after her mother, but like "Arular" it mixes up musical ideas from around the world and crams them into a club- and radio-friendly collage of tunes. This CD drives her music in even more intrepid directions In fact this time, rather than work with British producers such as Steve Mackey of Pulp and the pop guru Richard X, MIA travelled widely to authentically capture the world music that intrigues her. The result is fantastic. "Birdflu" features the sound of traditional Indian drummers, whom MIA recorded on a trip to the sub-continent last year. "Down River" throbs with didgeridoo she recorded at a workshop for aboriginal children in Australia. The tribal pound of "Hussel", meanwhile, was recorded with a Nigerian-born London-based rapper, African Boy. Whereas "Arular" was dominated by bouncy funk carioca beats, "Kala" feels like a more mixed, cosmopolitan affair.Recorded in India, Australia, Trinidad, Japan, Britain and Baltimore with producers including Switch and Blaqstarr, it sounds like an infectious international travelogue. Looking at that luminous, vibrant front cover, or the ludicrously colourful video for "Boyz", M.I.A. seems more like a textile artist than anything else. If the driving force behind her music is a restless, globe-trotting quest for identity, that makes sense - a collage is a beautiful way of drawing disparate pieces together to create a whole that exists as something important in itself. "Kala" meets the critics head on, taking her dancefloor smash-and-grab sound global. She twangs the boundaries of taste both lyrically ("Take me on a genocide tour/Take me on a trip to Darfur") and musically. But a knockout's a knockout, however messy the bout. All in all, Kala is an intense, body-shaking, mind-bending album, far more ambitious than most pop around. My favourite tracks are "Paper Planes", "20 Dollars" and "Turn"."
More confident and daring than Arular
A. Beydoun | Australia | 08/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Right from the opener 'Bamboo Banger' it's obvious that this is a more confident and assured record, where M.I.A really sets herself no boundaries. The first 3 songs on the album hit you like a storm, and Jimmy arrives at the perfect moment to inject a little disco into the album. Before you know it, the album is over, and all you want to do is hit the rewind button. Sounds, beats, moods and different genres come together to create a soundscape which is both distinct and enthralling. This is truly a global artist who has only began to explore her potential.
If you enjoyed her debut album, then there is no doubt that this will quickly make it's way to the top of your play list. If your just looking for something out of this world in it's brilliance, then pick this up ASAP!!