Critics such as US-based Sri Lankan rapper DeLon have accused her of glorifying terrorism and called her a “terrorist chick.”
Sri Lankan music fans have a broad spectrum of genres to choose from, with everything from pop, jazz, heavy metal and rock dominating the airwaves, and Western classical concerts playing to packed houses.
Local rap and pop performers who record in English are also popular, so there is little indication in the vigorous blogosphere debate on M.I.A. that the Sri Lankan music scene is poorer for her absence.
“M.I.A doesn’t have a clue about Sri Lanka,” says blogger Surekha Ratnatunga.
“She is the voice the world will listen to, but makes the same mistake as the government, by acknowledging the plight of only a portion of Sri Lankan population.”
M.I.A.’s songs contain their fair share of violent imagery and the chorus of Paper Planes is peppered with percussive gunshot sounds as a backdrop to the implicitly violent lyrics: “All I want to do is — Bang! Bang! Bang! — And take your money.”
But the artist insists her creativity is born of her own experience.
“If you think lyrics about guns are bad, I shouldn’t have been shot at when I was 7 years old,” she told the Wall Street Journal.
She said Paper Planes refers to the stereotypes that Third World immigrants to the West often suffer.
“It’s about people driving cabs all day and living in a [expletive] apartment and appearing really threatening to society. But not being so,” she told the Houston Chronicle newspaper.
“I’ve seen people get massacred in front of me. When you come from that kind of background, you do become matter of fact and tell it like it is,” she said.