Arts & Culture

MIA’s Globalized Baby Bump

Whether you were aware of MIA’s pregnancy before Sunday’s Grammys or not, well, you are now. Girl is huge, and still rockin out, g-d bless. Something tells me that if her maternity wear looks like this she won’t become some … Read More

By / February 10, 2009

Whether you were aware of MIA’s pregnancy before Sunday’s Grammys or not, well, you are now. Girl is huge, and still rockin out, g-d bless. Something tells me that if her maternity wear looks like this she won’t become some bland Bugaboo-pushing earth-goddess like some celebrities who have experienced the transcendent wonder of childbirth. 

The subject of this post, however, is to draw attention to the symbolic importance of MIA’s baby-to-be, whose father is her fiance Benjamin Brewer, guitarist for Brooklyn indie band The Exit-

– and son of Edgar Bronfman Jr. (Insert record-scratch, "whaaaa???")

Now, trust, I know precious little about MIA and B.Brew as actual people nor do I need to know anything about their relationship or personal lives.  At the risk of pontificating obnoxiously about post-globalization romance, and hailing this kid as the future Barack Obama of music (is "Colombo and Columbia" the new "Kansas and Kenya"?), I contend that baby Arulpragasam-Brewer’s existence is still noteworthy for the fact that his or her musical heritage will blend first-world and third-world methods of culture-making. 

Edgar Bronfman Jr. is the chairman of Warner Music Group, one of the big four media conglomerates that includes Columbia Records and Bad Boy Records.  They are responsible for many well-known acts like Puff Daddy and Madonna, and, to be honest, are often the people behind you not getting to watch certain videos on YouTube.  Huge media companies like WMG produce culture in a top-down manner, that is, hand-pick and groom those entertainers deemed market-friendly enough to warrant investment and blitz the radio stations (which they own), TV channels (see previous) and even highly coordinated "guerilla" or "word of mouth" campaigns that co-opt seemingly authentic methods of tastemaking.   I don’t mean to imply that Mr. Bronfman is alone in this; I merely seek to point out the way his multi-billion business operates.  He’s also definitely not the only Jew to be the businessman behind the commercialization of other people’s culture.

Now, contrast that with MIA’s rise to stardom.  Her family left Sri Lanka’s civil war to live in Britain where she was exposed to hip-hop and Western pop, and experimented with fashion design and film inspired by radical artists, street life, and her own cultural background. Her music became popular in a truly grassroots fashion, through file-sharing, club play, and college radio.  The content of her songs is raw and heady, tackling war, terrorism, poverty, culture clash, inequality, religious persecution – topics not found in your typical Taylor Swift single.  She promotes artists from the developing world in her music and collaborative projects and has said "We have all these preconceived ideas of a kid in Africa…dudes in their African cloths singing under a tree with a stick, you know, and it’s not like that. It’s way more progressive. It’s way more progressive than music in the West."

So I’m partially excited about MIA’s child – Edgar Bronfman Jr.’s grandchild – for the sheer thrilling improbablility of those two worlds colliding.  Beyond that superficial appreciation, however, I think we all should be excited that this kid, and hopefully many others of his/her generation, will be able to synthesize an understanding of old-school and emerging methods of making and sharing art.  Hopefully those of us with backgrounds closer to that of EBJ than MIA can contribute to the creation and celebration of authentic expression wherever it can be found.