MIA is going to be the boss of this year’s Meltdown, the prestigious music and arts festival held annually at the Southbank Centre. Since 1993, Meltdown has given one person free rein to curate multiple performances over several days. Following in the footsteps of David Bowie, Morrissey, John Peel and Jarvis Cocker, Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arulpragasam will coordinate ten days of events between June 9 and June 18 this year.
Although the line-up is still being worked on, MIA states that she plans to ‘bring together music’s best forward thinkers, who have contributed to all our lives’. She also wishes to ‘redefine the concept of a melting pot’. Writing exclusively for Time Out about her forthcoming Meltdown, MIA reflected on the influence British culture has had on her career:
1. She’s a provocateur
At a time when seismic political decisions are making activists of many, the idea of an activist helming Meltdown makes so much sense. As early as 2005’s debut album ‘Arular’, she was proud to boast ‘I’m a fighter, a nice nice fighter.’ She has supported the rights of Tamils in Sri Lanka, was outspoken over the Iraq War, has criticised state surveillance and champions the rights of migrants. It demonstrates a career-long devotion to campaigning that Kasabian or The 1975 could never show.
2. She’s not just another bloke from a band
The only other women to have run Meltdown are Yoko Ono, Patti Smith and Laurie Anderson. That’s three women compared to 21 men. Seems about time things levelled out a bit. Moreover, she has a fine pedigree as a visual artist, so expect MIA’s Meltdown to be loads more arresting than most.
3. Her rebel credentials are impeccable
These days the famous are celebrated as being ‘kickass’ for the most trivial of nods to social issues. MIA has been kicking up a proper ruck since Y2K. Perhaps her most costly fight stemmed from her flipping the finger (to the outrage of middle America) during the 2012 Super Bowl half-time show. The NFL initially sued for $16.6 million; they settled out of court.
4. She’s internationally minded
Arts and music fans who are alarmed at growing insularity and nationalism around the world will take heart that Meltdown’s boss this year is someone with a truly global outlook. Her videos alone have taken fans across the Mojave Desert and into the jungles of South India, through migrant border crossings and famously along a drag strip in Morocco for ‘Bad Girls’.
5. She has great taste
Meltdown is all about putting together a varied programme of talent – something that’s a gift to someone like MIA who has worked with people as diverse as Madonna, Elastica, Peaches, Jay Z, Spike Jonze and Romain Gavras, among many others. She even got Julian Assange to open for her once in 2013 – via Skype. It might be hard to get him in person, but you never know...