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Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam - better known by her stage name, M.I.A. - had quite the childhood. Born in London in 1977, she spent her formative living in Sri Lanka, a war torn island nation off the coast of southern India. Due to her father�s position as a rebel leader with the Tamil militancy (a rebel group opposing the majority Sinhalese ethnic group), her family was forced to move around the island often, shifting from safe house to safe house. Eventually the conditions in Sri Lanka became too dangerous, forcing Maya and her family to relocate back to England where they received government housing in London as political refugees. A naturally talented artist, Maya excelled at school, graduating from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design with a degree in film.

She found work as an artist and graphic designer after leaving college, garnering some critical acclaim as early as 2001 when she began to host public exhibitions of her work, mostly paintings. Her style - characterized by its juxtaposition of violent imagery with bright neon colors - made waves in the London art scene, developing a wide local fan base. She made ends meet as a painter before branching out into music around 2002, when she began messing around with a drum machine and an aging four-track tape recorder in her room. She produced her first recording in 2003 (an early version of her hit single "Galang"), which began to receive heavy rotation in local clubs and on college radio stations, eventually reaching an even larger audience when it became a hot commodity on internet file sharing networks.

The runaway popularity of M.I.A.�s early work - similar to the media frenzy surrounding the Arctic Monkeys� rise to fame - caught the attention of executives at XL Recordings (Basement Jaxx, Sigur Ros), an influential UK independent label. XL signed M.I.A. to their roster in 2004, releasing her debut album Arular in early 2005. Recorded mostly in her bedroom, Arular received massive praise for its unique sound, combining elements of hip-hop and dancehall with sparse electro backbeats, stripped synthesizers, socially conscious lyrics, and a variety of tribal percussion. The success of Arular put M.I.A. on the fast track to international superstardom, securing her performances alongside the likes of LCD Soundsystem and Gwen Stefani throughout 2006. Arular spawned a total of three singles: "Bucky Done Gun", "Sunshowers", and a re-recording of "Galang".

M.I.A. began recording her second album Kala in 2006 while still on tour, piecing together the album in various locations across the United States, Liberia, Jamaica, and Japan. Kala featured a louder and heavier style than its predecessor, once again turning a cacophony of international influences into powerful alternative hip-hop that manages to be both club-friendly and politically conscious at the same time, often touching on themes of urban poverty, racism, and third-world strife. Standout tracks from Kala include "Boyz", "Bird Flu", and "Paper Planes". "Paper Planes" - which samples a guitar riff by The Clash - has proven to be her most successful single to date, rising to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2008 after its inclusion in the trailer for the hit comedy Pineapple Express.

Maya toured in support of Kala throughout the first half 2008, ending her rigorous international touring schedule during the 2008 Bonnaroo Music Festival to begin working on her third record. M.I.A. currently lives in the colorful Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of New York City, and is working on a number of film and fashion projects in addition to her highly anticipated third album.

From Discogs:

British singer, songwriter, record producer, fashion designer and visual artist born in Hounslow, London in July 17, 1977.

From Lastfm:

There are five known artists under this name: (1) Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, a British alternative dance musician and graphic artist of Tamil descent.

(2) An 80's American punk/hardcore band

(3) An Argentinian progressive folk collective

(4) An alias of Raphael Merriweathers Jr.

(5) An alias of Michaela Grobelny (1) Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, (born 18 July 1975 in Hounslow, London, U.K.) is a British artist of Sri Lankan descent. As a baby she moved with her family to their native Sri Lanka, where her father became increasingly politically active in militant activities.

Read more about M.I.A. on Last.fm.

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From Wikipedia:

Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam (Tamil: மாதங்கி 'மாயா' அருள்பிரகாசம்; born 18 July 1975), better known by her stage name M.I.A., is a British songwriter, record producer, singer, rapper, fashion designer, visual artist, and political activist.

An accomplished visual artist by 2002, M.I.A. came to prominence in early 2004 through file-sharing of her singles "Galang" and "Sunshowers" on the Internet. She released her Mercury Prize-nominated debut album Arular in 2005. Her second album, Kala, was released in 2007 along with the single "Boyz" obtaining Gold status in Canada and the U.S. (RIAA-certified) and Silver status in the UK according to the BPI. "Paper Planes", a track from this album became a chart favourite in 2008. Her third album, Maya was released in 2010 with the single "XXXO", and reached the top ten in numerous countries worldwide. She has embarked on three worldwide headlining tours. She has been nominated for two Grammy Awards and an Academy Award.

Her compositions have been noted to encompass various genres, often with political lyricism and artwork. M.I.A. has described her music style as being "other". Her work as a graphic designer, providing artwork and photography for releases and as a director of music videos has garnered similar recognition and in 2008 M.I.A. released a collection of her fashion designs. She is the founder of the multimedia label N.E.E.T. In 2009, Time magazine placed M.I.A. in its annual Time 100 list of the world's most influential people.

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