Thursday CarTunes: M.I.A. and the Toyota Corolla

By Author: Harvey Briggs, Date: Nov 10, 2017
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The Song
What do you get when hip hop meets dance and electronic music in a Sri Lankan home in the United Kingdom? The music of M.I.A., a multi-platinum songwriter, performer, and political activist. Visa is a song off her latest album, AIM, which was released in 2016 and perfectly illustrates her worldly approach to Hip Hop. Using sparse instrumentation and driving rhythms the song moves quickly from one scene to another. But it keeps coming back to her desire not to be discovered by the authorities which makes her choice of car perfect for maintaining anonymity.

At the border I see the patroller
Cruising past in their car
Hiding in my Toyota Corolla
Everybody say “Y.A.L.A.!”

The Artist
M.I.A. is the pseudonym Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam chose to represent her stage persona. Both a play on her given name and of course the phrase Missing In Action, she chose it for very personal reason’s as explained in her 2012 autobiography, “M.I.A. came to be because of my missing cousin. I wanted to make a film about where he was since he was M.I.A. in Sri Lanka. We were the same age, went to the same schools growing up. I was also living in Acton at the time. So I was living in Acton looking for my cousin missing in action.”

By RUDEWORKS – This image was originally posted to Flickr as M.I.A. @ Sónar 2005 (III)

Arulpragasam began her career as a visual artist designing album covers for musicians in the UK where she was born and raised. She transitioned to music when a friend introduced her to a Roland MC-505 music sequencer and drum machine. Her songs often have strong political undertones reflecting her Tamil heritage and the fact that her parents emigrated to the UK as refugees from civil war in Sri Lanka. This has led to several controversies her life and career, including being branded a terrorist sympathizer. The lyric “Y.A.L.A.” in Visa is short for “You Always Live Again,” a nod to reincarnation a core belief of her Hindu faith.

The Car
As I mentioned, if keeping a low profile is your goal, it would be hard to choose a better car than a Toyota Corolla. With a well-earned reputation for quality, reliability, and affordability, Corollas – both new and used – are high on the shopping lists of budget concious buyers. Its popularity and ubiquity combined with its uninspiring design and performance have made the Corolla the butt of many automotive enthusiasts jokes. Those who love to drive consider it to be more of an “automotive appliance” than a car.

Just how ubiquitous is the Corolla? Since its introduction in 1966 more than 40 million have been sold world-wide making it even more popular than the VW Beetle. It hit the shores of the U.S. in 1967 and to this day at a time when SUVs are the preferred platform of most buyers, the Corolla is still immensely popular, selling an astonishing 360,483 units in 2016. Now in its 11th generation, Toyota refreshed the Corolla earlier this year with a new front end and a 50th Anniversary Special Edition model that features special paint and trim color in the SE model with moonroof, Smart Key and Entune Audio Plus.

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Harvey Briggs

Harvey Briggs is the Founder, Editor, and Publisher of Rides & Drives. He has also written for Car and Driver, Winding Road, and the luxury lifestyle blog, Pursuitist.com. His passions run from fast cars, small planes, boats and motorcycles to music, travel, and sports. When he's not on the road testing the latest cars, he been known to turn up on stage playing rock and blues guitar at clubs around his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Follow Harvey's adventures on Instagram and Twitter @harvey_drives and find him on Facebook. Though keeping up could be a problem. As Harvey says, "If I don't slow down, time can't catch me."

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