Q&A: Ana Tijoux, The Best of Both Worlds

Read more

The emergence of this femcee rhymer into the hip hop realm never ceases to amaze me. For those who don’t know Ana Tijoux well enough yet, Anamaría Merino was born in 1977 in France to a French mother and a Chilean father in political exile. During the mid ’60s and early ’70s in Chile, music had become a powerful vehicle that helped raise consciousness that dealt with the oppressive forces of Pinochet’s regime — music such as la nueva canción. Music in Chile knows too well how to appropriate alternative knowledge from government owned media.

With France pioneering hip hop scenes and Chile’s historical processes, Ana naturally found a home in hip hop in her fatherland. Though as many counter-narrators of alternative truths dislike being labeled as a “voice of the generation,” there is no doubt that Ana has fierce, pungent, and powerful rhymes that’ll put any news broadcaster to shame.

With the release of her latest album La Bala (out today on iTunes), and her recents gigs in Latin America showcasing the record, we caught up with Ana in transit via telephone at her hotel in Lima where we talked about the fine points between politics and relationships, the influences of art and music in a state of upheaval, and the best part about sharing two cultures.


Tonight (Jan 18th) you’re performing in Lima as part of the Indie Gentes concert series. What do you look forward to the most?

It’s the first time that I’m playing in Peru, so it is very exciting to say the least — to finally come to brother countries of Latin America. I feel like it’s a very important time for me to be here, and to have the opportunity to present my work and all of the albums that I have been making from before. I actually have big expectations about what will happen here tonight.

Awesome! By the way, thanks for that playlist. I noticed that you also listed “Shock” as one of your favorite tracks. So did we for our Best of 2011. In terms of the song, tell me about your relationship or involvement with the student movement in Chile.

Well, it’s the label that put the song, I’ll tell you that in particular. It would be too egocentric for me to list it. I appreciate that Nacional Records put it there anyways. But, yes, “Shock” is about a social movement that has been growing since last year until now. As a social citizen, musician, and mother, I think it’s inevitable that through art, music, painting, dance, etcétera, I have been influenced, and many others, by what is happening here because it’s something that is familiar for us. The song talks about free and quality education, in a positive and just way. With that point of the view, I don’t want to be, or tell anyone that I’m the voice, or my involvement for that matter. It’s about the sensibility of a topic that affects the entire country, and the culture of our society. I think that’s a very obvious reason why that has been affecting all the creativity and music in Chile. And I’m not apart of that. I’m apart of the influences that have been happening here.

So going back, what first drove you write socially conscious lyrics as opposed to writing personal lyrics (or lovey dovey ones per se)?

Everything is very united in that situation. I don’t think that a political vision about the world is very different than sensitivity or emotion, because to have a point of view, you’ve got to be sensible about what has happened in any other country — you’ve got to feel that you are connected with the rest of the people. So I think that emotion, a political view, and social vision about a certain topic is very connected in all ways. It is not any more political than being in a love relationship {laughs}. I think that’s also the best way to explain our political relationship.



Interesting correlation. On another subject not too far off, what are your thoughts on file sharing?

I’ve got to be honest, anyone with a label could be upset about it. I think it’s very beautiful to have the opportunity to share the music with the world, in all sense. I don’t think we should put a stop to it. In fact, it’s helpful and very healthy for culture. I prefer people to download my music then say, to not buy it. It’s almost about a self point of view, whether you want to buy a song or whether you pay what you feel is the price to pay. But I download a lot of music too, so I think it would be very hypocritical to talk badly about file sharing.

Let’s talk about your upcoming album. What would you say is different, production-wise, in La Bala than in your previous album, 1977.

La Bala is a logical continuation from 1977. I don’t want to repeat what I’ve done before, and I don’t want to fall under the expectations that people have for this new album. To make another 1977 could have been the worst thing I could have done — to repeat the formula. Saying this, I don’t feel like I’m the ‘king of tree’ of music, it’s just about emotion and sensibility. So saying that La Bala is a logical continuation, the difference is also that there’s a lot of classical instruments like tuba, violin, real drums, etcétera. I wanted this album more organic — the perfect mixture.

Where does the title of the album come from?

It’s very intuitive to put a name to an album. I felt it when I gave it the name.

Cool. How was it like collaborating with Jorge Drexler?

Very beautiful because he’s a very sensible and simple person. We connected immediately talking about the world, politics, Latin America, classical music, whatever. I think those type of collaborations are human collaborations. It’s about energy, so it was very easy to work with him. He was super helpful in the ideas, and very humble.

What’s the best part about sharing two heritages, being Chilean and French?

The best part to have been born in France is to have the possibility to meet so many people from so many different countries and to learn about tolerance with other cultures; Arabians, Africans, Asians, etc. It’s very beautiful to have the opportunity to be in a platform with all kinds of cultures. This makes you learn so much about the world and also gives you another vision about the planet. Living in Chile, during these times, we share a passion for Latin America, and for this mixture of action and reaction; when you immediately feel, something you make it — you don’t question it. It is very intuitive, from the skin, so I think that is the best part of both worlds.



How would you describe the hip hop scene in both Chile and France, and how do they differ from each other.

In France, it’s a very old French scene — hip hop is very historical. It’s the second place in the world where the most hip hop is consumed and produce. France has so many writers, producers, and DJs. As for all the cultural hip hop, like street dancers, graffiti artists, etcétera, it’s done with a lot of quality and with a lot of historical processes.

The scene in Chile is younger than in France, but at the same time it’s very powerful and big that came in with a lot of force. In Chile, and the rest of Latin America, we have so many things to talk and write about so the point of view makes it very unique. It’s very interesting to see this new scene trying to find its own identity in hip hop. While we listen to European or North American hip hop, we got this proposition in our own language and in our music, that searching is very interesting.

Who are your favorite hip hop artists in both of these scenes?

Right now, I very much admire French Congolese, Balojí. And in Chile, I would say Hordatoj.

And who are your favorite writers or poets of all time?

I’ve been reading a lot of Arthur Rimbaud lately.

What are some of your guilty pleasures in music or film?

In films, I will say Insomnio — the only thing that’ll make me sleepy is to see any films of Jennifer Aniston. I sleep immediately. I don’t have a guilty pleasure, but I do have a very good remidy to sleep. And in music, well what is my guilty pleasure? I don’t believe in guilty pleasures! A pleasure can’t be guilty.

Nice, agreed. Are you doing anything special for Valentine’s day with your special someone?

That’s a very good question. Well, I think that every day is a Valentine’s day, I don’t believe it should be a very commercial day… you can apply this everyday.

So do you have a favorite holiday?

No, not really. I’m not crazy about these collective, commercial parties.

So back to the music. What are the next creative steps for you, after the release of the album?

The next step is to play the album live and for it to find it’s own language. I think the album has to find it’s own identity playing it live, that’s very important right now.

Ok, last question. If you had a person visiting you in Chile who’s never been there before, where would you take them as your favorite places to go out at night.

At my home!


Watch Ana Tijoux’ latest music video “Shock” off her album La Bala:

[insert-video youtube=177-s44MSVQ]