Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, better known as M.I.A., is one of the most influential pop stars in the industry today. Since her music stormed the internet in 2004, M.I.A, has continually wowed audiences in her attempts to break away from the traditional pop mold. Her eclectic compositions (which are often tied to political lyricism) combine elements of world music, rap, hip-hop, alternative and electronica. Aside from singing and songwriting, M.I.A has also been credited as a record producer, director, fashion designer, visual artist, and political activist.
Although born in London, M.I.A spent the first decade of her life living in her family's native Sri Lanka (as well as India) while her father was supporting the Tamil efforts (he was the founding member of EROS, a militant Tamil group). In order to protect Maya, her sister Kali, and brother Sugu from the violence of the civil war, M.I.A's mother moved them back and forth between India and Sri Lanka during their early years and then eventually back to London where they were housed as refugees. M.I.A. attributes much of her success to the "homeless, rootlessness" of her early life, and is considered to be a refugee icon.
Upon finishing school, M.I.A studied fine art and film at Central Saint Martin's in London and a budding career as an artist began to take shape. After being introduced to the Roland MC-505 by electroclash artist Peaches, M.I.A started experimenting with music. She began recording and ended up laying down a 6 track demo. File-sharing of her singles "Galang" and "Sunshowers" stormed the Internet in 2004 and it wasn't long before the labels began to take notice. Later that year, she signed to XL Recordings and released her Mercury Prize-nominated debut album Arular in 2005. Her second album, Kala, was released in 2007. It obtained gold status in Canada and the U.S and silver status in the UK. The track "Paper Planes" became a chart favorite in 2008 and was featured in films such as Pineapple Express and the academy award winning Slumdog Millionaire. Her third album, Maya, was released in 2010 with the single "XXXO." The album became her highest charting album in the US (#9) and reached the top ten in numerous countries worldwide.
M.I.A.'s consistent addressing of several conflicts and oppressed peoples around the world has been both tremendously heralded and criticized. M.I.A. notes that the voicelessness that she felt as a child dictated her role as a refugee advocate and voice lender to civilians in war. In 2009, Time magazine placed M.I.A. in its annual Time 100 list of the world's most influential people.