No stranger to courting controversy, M.I.A. kicked off her Nov. 1 show at Terminal 5 in New York with a surprise guest: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The Australian mass-publisher of government secrets — who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the last 16 months as he faces arrest in the United Kingdom and Sweden — appeared via Skype on a big screen at the start of the performance to speak about press freedom and online privacy.
M.I.A., promoting her new album Matangi, out Nov. 5, had previously announced on Twitter that she had “an EPIC guest speaker” scheduled for the show. That it turned out to be Assange perhaps wasn’t all that surprising. The British songwriter, rapper, producer and artist, whose real name is Mathangi Arulpragasam, is famously political and has collaborated with Assange before. In 2012, she wrote the theme song for his television show The World Tomorrow.
“I have become a fan of M.I.A.,” confessed Assange, as he opened her show, “because I think she is the most courageous woman working in western music, without exception.”