Were we to try and describe the precise sound which London-born, Sri Lanka-raised MIA makes, we’d be here all day. While she can be very broadly described as an electro-grime act whose vocals are a combination of hip hop cajoling and reggae rhythm, there’s so much more to her than that. The Mercury-nominated artist (for her debut album Arular, named after her father) is surely one of the most expansive acts appearing at Connect, which is saying a lot considering the Beastie Boys and Björk are also on the bill.
The daughter of a Tamil activist, Maya Arulpragasam (the MIA alias is her initials, plus an acronym of ‘Missing In Action/Acton’) merges the sound of grime with the ludicrous, show-off Shoreditch style and, by talking about her own history, a vibrant political element. Although blessed with the looks and dress sense of a teenager, the 30-year-old was plugging away as an artist between leaving Central Saint Martins and making it in music. She got far enough to design the cover for Elastica’s album The Menace, and it was while touring America with the Wire copyists that she met Peaches and became acquainted with the synthesiser.
Eventually hooking up with leftfield hip hop producer Diplo, MIA was heaped with critical praise for Arular, although not necessarily the commercial success to match. Since then, however, she has recorded with Missy Elliot, toured with Gwen Stefani and LCD Soundsystem and collaborated with high-end producers Timbaland and Switch, and her second album, Kala (named after her mother, this time), is already being touted as one of the biggest releases for the autumn. You might have heard its first single ‘Boyz’, which sits somewhere in between genre-defying contender for single of the year and really rather annoying, depending on your taste for truly original, out of the box music. Yet one thing it does do, much like its unique creator, is suck your attention right in.
Oyster Stage, Sunday