Fashion, History, Music

M.I.A did it FIRST!

Rihanna’s Bad Gal image wouldn’t exist without the iconic Mathangi  “Maya”  Arulpragasam, or MIA as she’s most popularly known.


She’s a genius. An authentic musician and artist, way ahead of her time. MIA is one of the first artists to use the vaporwave aesthetic in her videos. By combining so many different influences from various cultures around the globe along with artistic interpretations, her music sends a political statement.

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A woman of colour, with Sri Lankan and Tamil origins. Her father was involved in  Eelam Revolutionary Organisation of Students (EROS), a political Tamil group affiliated with the LTTE. As a result she spent 11 years of her life in hiding (real bad gal vibez) but moved back to West London later.


Her music is not about generating as much sales as possible, it’s about REAL music. Her music doesn’t fit in the molds of the ‘norm’, i.e. the charts.  M.I.A’s music is about pleasing the artistic brain in the listener. Whereas artists such as Rihanna or Katy Perry, or even Lady Gaga are made to appeal to a certain audience.  One thing is for sure, she can appeal to the mainstream audience if she really wanted to – we seen that with her Paper Planes tune.


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Her visual’s are not only inspiring but extremely creative. In her ‘XXXO’ video, directed by herself, she includes animated web graphics associated with social networking sites as if to mimic the new generations craze of social media. At the end of the video she even writes “Thank you for adding me” which was typical of Facebook and MySpace in 2007/2008. None of this was ever done before.


BUT alas, how you ask, has this 42 year old mother of two contributed to Riri’s savage image?


M.I.A. ‘Boyz’ was released in June 2009 and Rihanna’s ‘Rude boy’ was released in February 2010…


M.I.A.’s ‘Jimmy’ was released in June 2009 and Rihanna’s ‘Where have you been’ was released in April 2012.

Coincidence or?

Plus I always loved how she incorporated her Asian roots with western culture, so original. I can’t emphasize how different this millennial would have been without her.  The amount of artists, hits & sub-cultures that were influenced by M.I.A is crazy. Rihanna is just one.




History, Travel

Who are the Black Irish?

Fun fact; did you know the Barbadian singer and fashion icon Rihanna has Irish ancestry?

Indeed, through her father, the ‘Work’ singer has what Bajan’s call ‘Redleg’ genes. Many of the Redlegs’ ancestors were forcibly transported by Oliver Cromwell consequent to his Conquest of Ireland. Others had originally arrived on the shores of Barbados in the early 17th century as “indentured servants”. History books will tell a different tale of these ”indentured servants” but luckily I have stumbled upon an informative article (with picture evidence) of today’s Bajan Redlegs.

Rihanna and her father Ronald Fenty


Written by Irish photographer Sheena Jolley – “In all, more than 50,000 Irish were transported from Ireland to Barbados (more were sent to other islands in the West Indies), many of them prisoners captured by Oliver Cromwell during the wars in Ireland and Scotland and following the Monmouth Rebellion. The slaves became known as Redlegs, almost certainly a reference to the sunburn they picked up in the hot tropical sun.”
“Today, the few hundred remaining Redlegs in Barbados, also known as the Baccra, a name they were given as they were only allowed to sit in the back row at church, stand out as anomalies in a predominantly black population, struggling for survival in a society that has no niche for them, looked down upon by both blacks and better-off whites.”

Danny Fenty
Danny Fenty as described by Sheena- “He is related to the singer Rianna whose immediate family originated from the same district.”


Sheena continues to explain – “The Redlegs have retained a racial pride and a degree of aloofness from their black neighbors, mostly marrying within their own community. They do not know much about Ireland except that some of their ancestors came from there. Though one man I met, Wilson Norris, is passionate about Irish music and has a collection of CDs, these people are poor and their main concentration is on survival, not the past.”

Erlene Downie and Betty Fenty
Erlene Downie (left) and Betty Fenty, who is the great aunt of singer Rihanna.


By the 18th century, the Irish slaves became less common as they were now paid. African slaves were trained in all necessary trades, so there was no demand for paid white labour. The Redlegs, in turn, were unwilling to work alongside the freed slave population on the plantations. Therefore, most tried to emigrate to other British colonies whenever the opportunity arose, which reduced the white population to a small minority; and most of the white population that chose to stay eked out, at best, a subsistence living.

As Sheena describes in her post “George Highland Hickson with his breadfruit tree.”

The Redleg descendants of indentured servants today are extremely poor, almost all living in shacks in the countryside. Many Redlegs reside in St. John’s Parish. For the small Redleg community still living on Barbados, most live a poorer standard of life than the black population, relying on farming or running small shops and brothels that serve the wealthier black population.

Music and a Helping Hand
Erlene Downie being helped back to her own house by daughters Hazel (on left) and Ann (on right) and serenaded by Willie Kerr of The Merrymen band so well known in Barbados for years.”

Oliver Cromwell is highly controversial among historians for his brutality in Ireland. But it is argued he is to blame for the worst atrocities committed in Ireland, such as mass evictions, killings and deportation of over 50,000 men, women and children as prisoners of war and indentured servants to Bermuda and Barbados. Some even say he is to blame for the famine and the plague which resulted after the wars which came as a result of the Cromwellian conquest.

One thing is for sure though…the Irish too were once slaves; The forgotten slaves.