Bird Flu (song)

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"Bird Flu"
Single by M.I.A.
from the album Kala
Released 23 November 2006 (2006-11-23)
Format Digital download
Length 3:23
Label XL Recordings
Producer(s) M.I.A.
M.I.A. singles chronology
"Bucky Done Gun"
(2005) Bucky Done Gun2005
"Bird Flu"
(2006) Bird Flu2006
(2007) Boyz2007
Music video
"Bird Flu" on YouTube

"Bird Flu" is an urumee melam-dance song by recording artist M.I.A. on her second studio album Kala (2007). It was released as a digital download in 2006 through XL Recordings under exclusive license to Interscope Records in the US. Critics noted its autobiographical lyrics "updated to the present day, where she's straddling the line between major-label success and her own crazy-ass major-label-bucking tendencies, singing she's too cool "to be a Rocawear model," whilst adding that she couldn't be a "rocker on a label"- they wouldn't have her because " beats were too evil."[1] Also praised was the song's utilization of the folk urumee melam/gaana music, a Tamil genre of music that the writer was familiar with having grown up in Jaffna.[2] Arulpragasam recorded the song using live drummers from temples in Chennai.[3] M.I.A. wanted to work with Tamil folk music as it gave her a sense of rhythm as a child and she wanted to draw certain aspects from Indian music that Western audiences hadn’t heard before.[4]


"Bird Flu" incorporates elements of the song "Thirvizha Na Vantha" from the Indian Tamil language film Jayam.

Music video[edit]

The music video was produced and directed by M.I.A. and a few creative consultants. It was shown at the 2008 San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival in the "Music Video Asia 2008" category.[5] M.I.A. talked about the filming location for Bird Flu and how it had a personal connection for her:[6] Where we shot the ‘Bird Flu’ was really close to the refugee camp where all the Sri Lankans get off the boat in India in the south, just outside Chennai. I went to this press office from 1986 or something, and found all these pictures of the refugees and stuff. I didn’t find pictures of us but I found pictures of my dad. Clothes were made for the "Bird Flu" project with Carri Mundane who with M.I.A., Steve Loveridge, and Sugu Arulpragasam, moved to Tamil Nadu during the shoot. Dancers were filmed auditioning for the video, which were posted on her YouTube account. She chose the boy featured in the video for inventing her the Bird Flu dance, saying he "can out dance anything I've ever seen."[7]

Release and reception[edit]

It was released as a downloadable single and video on iTunes on 23 November 2006, despite M.I.A. not considering this song to be the album's first official single.[8][9] It was first mentioned in M.I.A.'s MySpace blog on 18 August 2006.[10] M.I.A. posted the video for this track on her MySpace on 5 February 2007.[1]

"Bird Flu" has been remixed by Cavemen. This song is featured in the video game FIFA Street 3 and was featured in the Japanese CGI anime film Vexille.[11] Kitty Empire in The Observer and Jody Rosen in named it the best song of 2007, with the latter appreciating the "clobbering" urumee symphony of the song complementing the "thick, buzzy and exciting beats" of much of Kala that was likened to "a post colonial studies seminar". The folktronica artist Patrick Wolf and experimental band Fuck Buttons cited the song as a favourite with Andrew Hung of the band commenting "She's got experimental tendencies but it's really popular at the same time. It's quite admirable in that sort of way. I love it."[12][13][14][15]

M.I.A. often requested fans to dance with her on stage when "Bird Flu" was played in concerts during the KALA Tour in 2007 and the People Vs. Money Tour in 2008.


  1. ^ a b ""Video: M.I.A.: "Bird Flu""". Pitchfork Media. 2007-02-05. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  2. ^ "M.I.A." SL2UK. Archived from the original on 13 October 2007. Retrieved 19 October 2007. 
  3. ^ "Life in Exile". Fader. 2008-03-19. Retrieved 2008-11-12. 
  4. ^ "M.I.A." Exclaim!. September 2007. Archived from the original on 1 December 2007. Retrieved November 23, 2008. 
  5. ^ "Bird Flu - M.I.A." SFIAAFF. 8 July 2007. Archived from the original on 10 March 2008. Retrieved 19 October 2007. 
  6. ^ "M.I.A. - Fact Magazine". Fact (UK magazine). Archived from the original on June 19, 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  7. ^ "M.I.A. unveils 'Bird Flu' beat". September 26, 2006. Retrieved November 23, 2008. 
  8. ^ "BOYZ". Archived from the original on 13 June 2007. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  9. ^ ""M.I.A.: "Bird Flu - Single""". iTunes Music Store. 2006-11-13. Retrieved 2008-11-04. 
  10. ^ "GOT MY VANS ON, AND THEY LOOK LIKE SNEAKERS" (2006-08-18). Retrieved on 2007-06-11.
  11. ^ "Various Artists - Vexille Soundtrack". 7digital. Archived from the original on 21 August 2008. Retrieved 25 September 2008. 
  12. ^ Empire, Kitty (2007-12-16). "The year in the arts 2007: Hip young things and tired old sounds". The Observer. London. Retrieved 2008-09-25. 
  13. ^ "Guest list: Fuck Buttons". Pitchforkmedia. 20 March 2008. Archived from the original on 21 October 2008. Retrieved 25 September 2008. 
  14. ^ "Guest list: Patrick Wolf". Pitchforkmedia. 20 April 2007. Archived from the original on 24 July 2008. Retrieved 25 September 2008. 
  15. ^ "The best music of 2007". 2007-12-20. Retrieved 2008-09-25.