One of the most arresting current pop hit singles is "Paper Planes," by M.I.A. As she heads into the pop mainstream, M.I.A. is being questioned once again about her connection with the notorious Sri Lankan terrorist organization, the LTTE.
Does the use of the tiger, an image strongly connected with the LTTE, in videos and artwork and being the daughter of a man strongly connected with the group equate with being a supporter? Apparently, Delon, an American hip hop artist with Sri Lankan heritage, thinks so. He put together a video using the music of "Paper Planes" to attack M.I.A. about her connections to the LTTE.
In response, M.I.A. stated to Pitchfork, "I don't support terrorism and never have. As a Sri Lankan that fled war and bombings, my music is the voice of the civilian refugee. Frankly, I am not trying to start dialogue with someone who is really just seeking self-promotion." Universal Music, M.I.A.'s label, invoked a cease and desist claim when Delon's video was posted on YouTube. According to Delon, he is suing the label.
As "Paper Planes" continues to climb the pop singles chart, there is a definite up side to the battle over her motivations. The Sri Lankan civil war has continued on and off for 25 years. It is one of the world's most vicious and deadly. Greater international awareness is a positive achievement. For one of the most thoughful explorations of questions over M.I.A.'s motivations, read this piece by celebrated music journalist Robert Christgau.
Photo copyright Kristin Vogel