Sunday, March 06, 2005


Last night, flipping through the few television channels I receive via my rabbit-ear antenna, I came across an odd channel playing music videos. I caught the tail end of some awful electronic song and was about to change the channel when M.I.A.'s video for "Sunshowers" came on.

I was transfixed. It was a truly bizarre meeting of east and west. The video features young Indian women dancing around in the jungle and bathing at the local watering hole. Lions (Panthera leo), leopards (Panthera pardus) and Indian elephants (Elephas maximus) laze about with the girls. The singer is a youngish Indian girl who, as the video opens, clambers about in a Robinson Crusoe tree house. As the video progresses, she climbs down and dances her way around the jungle floor while the other girls work, dance and play. As if this Bollywood-like setup isn't colorful and curious enough, the girl is singing about some heavy subject matter. A sampling of lines:
"Semi-9 and snipered him
on that wall they posted him,
they cornered him
and then just murdered him.
He told them he didn't know them.
He wasn't there, they didn't know him.
They showed him a picture then.
'Ain't that you with the Muslims?'"
The contrast of happy young girls playing with the jungle animals and lyrics about hits on those associating with Muslims intrigued me.

A quick Google search tells me that M.I.A. is Maya Arulpragasam, a Sri Lankan now living in the UK. Her father was a freedom fighter in Sri Lanka and as a child she found herself in the midst of the violence. Now with an emerging art (she's a painter, too) and music career, she is slated to be the next critical darling, appealing to both indie rockers and "urban music listeners." Her album, Arular, is getting rave reviews overseas and is set to be released in the states later this month.

I don't intend to plug M.I.A., but I am enamored of this single and the video. The best part is that, despite the location and the animals, it has a rather low-budget feel to it. Maybe this is what happens when Missy Elliot starts influencing folks on the other side of the world, people with real revolutions to rhyme about."

Natural History Note: If these girls were actually to be surrounded by the three animal species in the video, they would have to be in the Gir Forest of India, the only remaining habitat for lions, and not in Sri Lanka or anywhere close to it for that matter...anyway, bygones.

Photo credit: unknown, production still from "Sunshowers" video

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