on 13 August 2007
nearly three years on from her wild debut album Arular (and her mixtape with Diplo) M.I.A. has, with Kala, proven that she is an artist of great creativity and substance. With these new songs she has created an equally provocative record as her debut, if not more so, as this album melds more styles together in more unusual ways. Opener Bamboo Banga sets the scene and has the listener hooked as soon as the pulsing ragga rhythms take hold. "M.I.A. is coming back with POWER POWER!" she chants, over a tinny bollywood sample, and she is certainly right. The next track is Bird Flu, a song I liked but didn't quite know what to make of when it first dropped several months ago over the internet, but in the context of the album it makes alot more sense and segues well into Switch produced BOYZ, her current single, which is surely one of her best tracks and an absolutely huge stomping piece of work. 'Jimmy' is a cover of a classic Bollywood tune from Disco Dancer and adds a touch of tongue in cheek light heartedness to all the thumping clanging beats and viscerally eclectic instrumentation. As the album progresses the scope becomes yet wider, with didgeridoo-based raps(Mango Pickle Down River featuring the Wilcannia Mob, whose rapping is delightful, resulting in a playful collaboration), dub-step influenced mash-ups of classic rock tunes ('blue monday' meets 'where is my mind' both go together into a dark and intense melting pot to create 20 Dollar), stabbing synths and rolling rhythms (XR2) and her trademark political poetry. Further collaborations are with Afrikan Boy (raucous synthplosion 'Hussel') and Timbaland (the sleek album closer 'Come Around) add yet more diverse influences to an already busy album, yet it never gets too much. The best track is without doubt the anthemic soaring Paper Planes, a satirical look at the arms trade, yet also a banging hip-hop tune (quite literally)
Everything flies together well, although it is all a little overwhelming at first and may take a few listens to all fall into place, given the scope and eclecticism. It's not quite as ground breaking at first as Arular, but then again, that's a tough act to follow. And you soon realize that it is just as impressive an album but in different ways. Maya Arulpragasam has obviously honed her talent, rising triumphantly above hype proving herself as a true artist with a developed style that sounds like so many different influences at once yet defiantly her own. The album is a new direction yet still has the in-your-face audacity and vibrancy she has become famous for, experimental without being detrimental, this is a seriously cool tropical roller coaster of psychedelic sound.
M.I.A. is colour, rap, dance, wild jungle rhythms and a mad fusion style. The Sri Lankan rapper blew people away with her debut album, but she's actually topped herself in "Kala" -- she takes the same ingredients as before and smashes them together into a wilder, tighter album full of deliciously wild electro-funk-rap with a world-music flair.
"Road runner, road runner/Going hundred mile per hour/With your radio oooonnnnnn," she drawls detachedly over a skittering beat and the sound of racing engines.
The dancey beat kicks in, as she announces, "I'm big timer, it's the bamboo banga/You'll be hungry like the wolves hunting dinner dinner/And we're moving with the packs like hyena ena..." Things really blossom with the next two songs, the frenetic tribal rhythms of "Bird Flu," and the Bollywood-dance, horn-heavy "Boyz."
Having hooked us in with three catchy songs, she expands her sound further: funky hip-hop, disco, distorted grimy raps, playfully violent pop, detached raps over electronic anthems, tribal house, and combinations of all of the above. It ends with a mellow, catchy tune that seems to be contradicting the whole album's mood, with M.I.A. saying "Calm down calm down CALM down!"
In the end, "Kala" is actually kind of intoxicating -- M.I.A. crams so much sound into less than an hour that it's almost a shock when your speakers go silent. Stylewise she hasn't changed much at all, but somehow the music is tighter and smoother, with fewer rough patches.
Her music is the most astounding part, splattering styles like a musical Jackson Pollock -- reggae, afrobeat, traditional Asian music, house, hip-hop, Bollywood, and funk. And the raucous, dancey instrumentation is equally diverse -- tribal drums, violins and horns paired with crazy beats and sampling (birds, cars and guns), along with some harmonica, handclaps, and weird sound effects.
In fact, the only letdown is "Jimmy." Seriously, lightweight disco? It doesn't fit in at all.
But as much fun as this splash of ethnic fusion is, M.I.A. doesn't leave out the meaning ("Hands up!/Guns out!/Represent/the world town!"). It's crammed with Africa, war, dancing, jungle parties, and the feeling that she's about to smash down your door and introduce you to the third world ("I put people on the map who have never seen a map!") whether you like it or not.
M.I.A.'s second album is a glorious cacophony, a joyous graffiti mural. "Kala" is crazy party music with a serious message, and the guts to make you dance while you listen.
on 1 May 2014
Famously feisty (the superbowl incident is just one example), the back story to this album is as interesting as the artist herself. I won't go into it (my review is about the music), and I want to tell you that, as a dance album, it offers something completely imaginative.
It provides eastern asian music with a dance sensibility and rhythm and a lot of firepower (plus some grrl power). The music just explodes in some places and the hooks here are catchy (you'll hum paper planes all day once hearing it).
Who would like this? Dance music fans who want something different than the Ibiza club sound and Diplo fans would like this too (he's on production duty here...)
on 18 September 2007
What can you say about m.i.a? she's so unique and original, it's really refreshing to hear music like that, with real meaning. This album is unlike any other album I own, it almost creates its own genre; not quite hip hop, not quite electronic but somewhere in between. It's a shame she's not as popular and well known as she deserves to be, but then it's like having this artist as your own musical secret, the music might get ruined if she became too mainstream. Skip straight to 'paper planes', a musical masterpiece, you'll love it!
on 15 May 2014
After Arular, this album takes MIA to another level of awesomeness. My fav MIA album to date (2014), this has got a great hip-hop feel throughout, but also draws massive influences from African and Indian music to good effect. It has the hit single 'Paper Planes' but the rest of the album maintains the standard well, which is rare for albums these days.
I've got to learn to be careful with hip young female singers. I lauded Lily Allen's debut with praise but I wouldn't listen to it now for all the milk roll lemon curd butties in the world. Lily , talented though she is has become ,along with Amy Winehouse, hideously overexposed. Thankfully Mia is a different proposition . She brings a searing political perspective but with non of the intravenous tabloid shenanigans. Plus her music is far from radio friendly .
Kala , so named after her mother was recorded at various locations around the world taking in India , Trinidad, Africa, Australia, Japan , Jamaica and America. The album feels like it has been assembled with the same ethos as Angelina Jolies family , cherry picked with constituent parts from all far flung corners of the world. It's not so much multi cultural as pan global and this makes the music exhilarating , kinetic and sometimes inspired ,However it also means it can become messy , discordant and simply tune free. Still if you want easy listening you can always opt for Natasha Bedingfield or Katie Melua.
Kala takes an admirably impertinent stance on rock ,pop and some other stuff as well using Bollywood strings, baile funk , African chanting , Aboriginal rappers along with cheesy keyboards, hyperactive percussion , and found sounds like chickens , choirs, gunfire(yikes)and cash registers ringing . When it works like on the excellent "Paper Plane" which borrows from The Clashes "Straight To Hell" where Mia ditches her rather limited hectoring rapping and sings it's terrific. "Jimmy" featuring glistening strings is the one true pop moment on the album while "20 Dollar" has Mia incorporate elements of The Pixies "Where Is My Mind" over a rubbery synthesiser. "Birdflu" is like early Adam & The Ants meeting Neneh Cherry while "XR2" is like Renegade Soundwave fronted by a new Terrifying Spice. "Mango River Pickle" use of didgeridoo is terrific and a splendid example of how she effortlessly weaves the sounds and cultures of her guest artists into her vision, but also highlights Mia,s sometime lyrical clumsiness -"I like fish and mango pickle / when I climb them trees my feet do tickle". "Hussel" has boisterous uncoiling keyboards round a strident but compelling vocal.
A couple of tracks do disappoint .First single "Boyz" is a messy mish mash while "World Town " is basically a tedious extended rap with some squeaky keyboards. But this is an audacious album and not only multicast but multi coloured ,even down to its cover and insert art. I doubt anyone will love every track on here but that's a testament of how much Mia has taken on with Kala as much as anything. Mia is an artist , like Bjork, not the least bit interested in the celebrity her music brings but only in how far she can push and how many different directions she can go in .Often within the same song. Kala is intended to give the Third World a voice .She has succeeded and what a voice it often is.
on 2 March 2012
If you're life is unreasonably dull as mine is you will enjoy this album. Dreadfully packaged in some day-glo colour scheme, Kala spices up your world in a way Geri Halliwell could dream of.
Fantasies and percussive rhythms feed this album along with salacious lyrics and third world political agendas.
M.I.A. is something of a terrorist - we need more like her.
on 5 January 2009
It's not often that i can embrace an album of such diversity as this so whole-heartedly as i have come to do with this,M.I.A's second album,Kala.
I did enjoy her first album,Arular,but felt it sounded a little forced and slightly over-worked (i do still enjoy most of the tracks on it though and would rate that as a four star album).
'Kala' however is a real step up to a completely different level of quality,not better,just more precise,fresher and less laboured,like the whole thing came together as a singular,solid and perfect explosion which was recorded within a week of it's mental conception.
It's a furious and volatile album,thumping beats and crackling distortion with chanting,surreal vocals and a smart,savvy and sparkling production.Intelligent lyrics are well placed in the mix and used to full effect and it makes you want to figure it out more giving the album longevity,i mean,let's face it,she never wanted to be a member of Girl's Aloud,and the lack of bubblegum 'fluff' here is apparent,hence why i feel she included 'Jimmy' as a little respite.
Listen to the intro of 'World Town' and how the programmed beats are so thick and heavy that they punctuate the rest of the music,stopping it,distorting it for a brief second...if this was intentional (and i'm guessing,rather hoping,it was/is),then what a sheer touch of genius...and this album is jam packed with moments like that!!
This style of music may not be your 'bag' but believe me,it isn't,or rather wasn't,mine either....i just know quality when i hear it,and these days,with 'da bling merchants',x-factor and puppets like girl/boy bands....it's time we doffed our caps to the talent that does abound out there,if you only look a little deeper (and had a little more self-respect than to follow the sheep!!!)
on 11 January 2008
MIA in the past has been fairly hyped up in some qurters, but at last she is starting to live up to it. This album is what I hoped her first record would be like but wasn't. Arular seemed to be throwing together 'influences' simply for the sake of it, but Kala's musical journey around the continents is far more interestring and productive. This album is original, catchy and daring enough to be worth attention.
It has to be said that there is the odd track that makes me sympathise with even the most negative reviewers, consistency of output is not MIA's strength, (why did the album have to open with road runner?) but I wouldn't want this to put anyone off.
on 6 June 2015
Love this album, it's great! You have to listen to it if you haven't already!