M.I.A. has spoken to NME about the way America “sort of works”, as well her present feelings about Sri Lanka. Her new song ‘There’s Space For Ol Dat I See’ is about the aftermath of the latter country’s civil war.
So does she feel pressure to address issues pertaining to Sri Lanka in her music?
“Recording my album’s been weird, because I feel like if anyone’s going to talk about it…I am the only Tamil person making music [in the west], and there is some sort of responsibility. But at the same time the process has always also been, ‘How do you rise above it’? I don’t know what the important thing is to get out of this, to learn. On one hand, it’s like, yeah, turn the other cheek, be the better person, and go, ‘Someone has to die’. But on the other side if I hadn’t lived through it, it wouldn’t be so important to me, maybe.
“But I’ve seen it – the most inhumane, disgusting racism and violence and all the sort of stuff I’ve seen is from that country. I’m more British than Sri Lankan, I was born in England, I’ve lived in England way more than I have in Sri Lanka…
“I don’t want to have anything to do with Sri Lanka, but to me it’s interesting to see the rest of the world deal with it. I don’t care about the government and what they’re going to do anymore, because it’s a barbaric country and I don’t want anything to do with it. I’ll never go there again my whole fucking life.”
She also clarifies – sort of – why she can’t leave the US.
“They won’t let my mum in and they won’t let me out [of the US]. I want people in England to know that I’m making this record in my house in America, but I had no choice. I can’t leave, and if I leave and come back to England, they won’t let me back in.
“My mum’s been to America hundreds of times. Since the civil war ended last may they kind of locked down all the expat people abroad. So they’ve criminalised everything; you can’t make a phone call to Sri Lanka without being called a terrorist. So my mum, who’s been a minimum-wage worker in Britain for 20 years, she’s worked for the monarchy sewing every bit of every medal that anyone’s ever worn…she’s deemed to be more threatening than the actual guys who are in Sri Lanka, bombing the hell out of innocent people. And that’s the way America sort of works.”
You can read the full interview in the current issue of NME, out now.