Borders

Album: AIM (2015)
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Songfacts®:

  • A week before M.I.A.'s 11th birthday, the singer, her mother and her siblings fled civil war in Sri Lanka. They arrived in London where they were housed as refugees. The singer therefore knows more than most of us about migrants and on this heartfelt song, she reminds us that for refugees worldwide, borders are not a sign of comfort. The track was released a fortnight after the November 2015 Paris terrorist attacks, a tragedy that prompted France to call for the suspension of open borders within Europe.
  • Speaking to NPR, M.I.A highlighted the tension between an increasingly globalized world and traditional border systems: "You don't put the borders on Apple, you don't put borders on YouTube, and you don't put borders on MTV," she said. "So to make the borders even taller when actually what the creative world is doing, or the business world is doing, is actually the opposite, then you're always going to have this problem."
  • The self-directed video finds M.I.A. joining a group of refugees as they migrate by land and sea, scaling barbed wire fences in their attempt to reach new borders. The singer dedicated the clip to her Uncle Bala, one of the first Tamil immigrants, who helped her family escape from Sri Lanka to England.
  • Six days after Henry IV of France's marriage to the Protestant Marguerite de Valois in August 1572, the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre kicked off in Paris. Over three thousand Huguenots who had come to the French capital for Henry's wedding were killed, as well as thousands more throughout the country in the days that followed.

    In the years following the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre, hundreds of thousands of Huguenots fled France and sought safety in other countries of northern Europe. An estimated 50,000 of crossed the English Channel to England, and it was then that the word 'refugee' first entered the English language. (Source The Encyclopedia of Trivia.)
  • M.I.A. is seen donning the shirt of French football team Paris Saint-Germain in the video. The jersey's sponsor Fly Emirates has been changed to read "Fly Pirates," which upset the soccer club and caused them to seek the removal of the music clip.
  • This is not the first time that M.I.A has spoken out on immigration activism. In her breakthrough hit "Paper Planes" she sung-rapped:

    If you catch me at the border I got visas in my name
    If you come around here, I make 'em all day
    I get one down in a second if you wait

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