Kala is an intoxicating junk-culture travelogue, a genre-humping mash-up of Bollywood rumbles, shrieking guitars and machine-gun rhymes.

Since 2005’s Arular, Tamil/London rapper M.I.A. has embarked on a horizon-stretching jaunt around the world, a voyage that has infused her second album with bite, wit and ambition. Inspired by trips to Libya, Bangladesh and the Caribbean, Kala is an intoxicating junk-culture travelogue, a genre-humping mash-up of Bollywood rumbles, shrieking guitars and machine-gun rhymes. Perhaps the outstanding moment is ‘$20’: an electro slow-burner that welds the chorus from the Pixies’ ‘Where is my Mind?’ to a treacle-slow ‘Blue Monday’ bass judder.

Elsewhere, 'Jimmy' is a sitar-charged celebration of glitter-ball kitsch (the melody is genuine Bollywood, sampling the song ‘Jimmy Jimmy Aaja’ from 1982 Saturday Night homage Disco Dancer), while ‘Bamboo Banger’, blends nonsense rhymes (“big tiger, jungle jammer, bamboo banga”), baile horns and bhangra grooves. Certainly it’s far more interesting than the record's solitary raspberry, the Britney-visits-the-Asian market hooey of ‘Come Around’, the dashed-off Timbaland hook-up that closes the record (plans for Timbaland to produce the entirety of Kala were scotched following M.I.A.’s US visa woes).

Ladies and gentlemen, fear her roar.


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