In the last five years, French-Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux has risen into the cream of the crop of serious Latin American artists using music to raise social consciousness. Building an audience to unfold social and political discourse demands a certain level of recognition. Some people point to Tijoux's performance at NPR's Tiny Desk Concert as her international breakthrough. Others argue it was Thom Yorke's 2010 listing of the rapper as one of his then-current favorites that brought her international acclaim. Most recently, we witnessed her hit "1977" being featured on that TV phenomenon Breaking Bad. And of course, how can anyone forget her collaboration with Mexican pop star Julieta Venegas in the infectious mega-hit "Eres Para Mi."
When doing a breakdown of her accomplishments, it doesn't seem that surprising to see Tijoux becoming one of the most celebrated new voices in Latin music.
Ana Tijoux is visiting the valley, performing on Tuesday, October 14, at Crescent Ballroom. This is part of Arizona State University's Performance in the Borderlands program, which brought another Latino rapper, Bocafloja, to Herberger Theater last month. As she tours the U.S. promoting her new album, Vengo, Tijoux's visit will also endorse the launching of 102.9 FM, a promising community radio set to hit the Phoenix airwaves next year.
Up on the Sun talked to Tijoux about her the idea of a cosmopolitan citizen, her social activism in music, and the inevitable controversies found throughout the music industry.
The following interview was conducted in Spanish and translated into English by the author.
Up on the Sun: With your French and Chilean nationalities, we tend to think of your persona as a cosmopolitan woman. How true is that?
We should be proud of our own cultural foundations. But never stop there. Being the daughter of Chilean exiles made me aware of politics from early on. As an artist, I hope I could say there is a cultural bond between France and Chile, but there isn't one. There's always room for curiosity and personal entity, and that can carry us to unimaginable places.
In the last few years we've seen Chilean pop explode. As an urban artist yourself, why do you think that other darker, urban acts from Chile like Kinetica and Como Asesinar Felipes haven't been able to internationalize the way pop artists like Javiera Mena and Gepe have?
It's tough for me to even attempt to answer that. I think both of the urban acts you mention are terrific, but I do think pop music is just easier to digest. Pop music seems to be more immediate - they have that on their side.
Goldenvoice (Coachella) and Cookman (Nacional Records) are presenting the first edition of Supersonico [a grand music festival taking place in L.A. this weekend]. Do you think that will open or close the doors for Latin acts to play at Coachella in the future?
I'm truly excited to be performing at Supersonico. Honestly, this concern has not even crossed my mind. I'm not exactly sure what's the dynamic when curating Coachella but I don't think it would prevent bands from playing there. It's good to have another space to showcase music. We should always root for more channels to get our voices heard. You are nominated for three Latin Grammys this year. It seems like every time you're nominated you go against some very big names. Reggaeton artists especially.
Do you feel [the Latin Grammys] should divide the Urban category into two categories. Rap/Hip Hop and Reggaeton?
First of all, it's always a good feeling to hear I've been nominated. I welcome that as an accomplishment. Having said that, I always also know that I am going to lose. It's extremely difficult to compete against a music industry that seems self-resolved on a mainstream level. And while it doesn't necessarily bother me to compete against reggaeton acts, I do think that it would be more fair and honest if the academy was to expand the urban categories the way they do with so many other genres.
Your latest record, Vengo, has been published on vinyl. You think wax is here to stay or is it a novelty that will wear off soon?
Oh I certainly think the vinyl is back. And it might be just a personal theory, but I think we are witnessing a digital exhaustion in the way we listen to music. I myself love having a record that I can hold and turn over. It's truly romantic. And everything, from the album art to the actual quality of the music is better on the album format.
The current renaissance of Chilean music seems to be linked in some way with the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Do you feel part of that?
I wouldn't say I'm directly a part of it as I was born France. But the dictatorship that forced my parents to exile has clearly touched all areas of my life. It's interesting how we were just talking about vinyl. My albums are not released on vinyl in Chile because the dictatorship destroyed the vinyl factories. This is an example of why think I belong to another group of affected individuals: the children of the dictatorship.
From the lyrics, to your direct, almost militant unfolding of your rhymes, it seems you take your music very personal. Is there a social responsibility you feel as an artist?
My music is, indeed, very personal. But that's not to say that I'm solely writing about my life and experiences. I think that there is a day-to-day responsibility for all of us humans. While music is a way to project and compromise my discourse, my responsibility as a person isn't stuck just in music. It's a responsibility that goes way beyond just creating art.
Following the day of the concert, on Oct.15, Tijoux will take part of a Q&A at ASU's Memorial Union, in the Tempe campus. Under the title, "Hip Hop, Pop and Politics," Tijoux will tackle on the issues of social and gender politics from 12 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
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