First things first, don’t blame Ana Tijoux for her slightly spotty English. Blame me for not speaking Spanish or French, the two languages Tijoux employs fluently in life and in her notable hip-hop career.
The Chilean rapper, who grew up in political exile in France, will add another chapter to her story on March 18, when her latest album, Vengo, is released. But before that drops, she’ll give SA audiences a taste of it during a March 16 performance here, marking her return to the Pearl’s Échale series. Previously, she played Échale in May 2012.
“San Antonio has always been a city that opened the door for us,” said Tijoux during a Skype interview from Chile. “I remember the energy [of the 2012 show],” she said, “people were very warm.”
Indeed, that first time around the free show’s crowd included a good amount of people unfamiliar with her work, but by the end the entire audience was demanding encores. That’s likely because Tijoux specializes in hip-hop with accessible, jazzy undertones (think the Roots, who have collaborated with Tijoux) and a husky delivery of socially conscious lyrics. Her first solo effort, 1977, put her on the international radar in 2009, and her 2012 follow-up, the Grammy-nominated La Bala, was a sonically powerful and lyrically fierce effort to bring attention to social unrest in Chile.
“Vengo is … lyrically a logical continuation of the last album,” said Tijoux. The new album’s single of the same name focuses on the untold history of indigenous people (Tijoux has ancestral ties to the Mapuche Native American community in Chile) and rests on an Andean flute loop. She’ll bring a live band with her to the Pearl.
“What we were thinking was to take some music from our continent and make some kind of mixture,” said Tijoux. “In that sense, we’ve been putting original instruments from here and … how should I say it … making a conversation between two worlds, the North and the South,” she said, using a common term in international relations for historically colonizer countries (the North) versus historically colonized countries (the South).
Another underrepresented voice in hip-hop of concern to Tijoux is women. The mother of two avoids being portrayed as “sexy,” something rare both among female emcees and Latina pop stars, preferring casual, comfortable clothes onstage and in photo shoots rather than skimpy outfits and high-maintenance looks. When told that’s garnered positive support from American feminists, she’s surprised.
“Oh wow. That’s amazing news … I think I’ve been the most stupid and ignorant person in the world about feminism,” she said. “I think it has to do a lot with our education. I don’t remember any class where I learned about feminism,” So, she’s been educating herself lately.
“I insist we live in a very, very machist [macho or patriarchal] society …” she continued. “I think it’s got to do also with how woman is show[n] in our society. You just need to walk two blocks anywhere in the world .... All the publicity’s got to do with the body of the woman, and how this body has been sold like meat. We are meat. That’s the way society sees us.”
With more women like Tijoux tackling male-dominated genres, however, her message, like her music, is hopeful. “If the music is beautiful and touch[s] some people,” said Tijoux, “you’ll be successful.”
This week, NPR is streaming the whole album here. It's worth a listen or 100.
Échale feat. Ana Tijoux, Federico Aubele & Natalia Clavier
5-7pm Sun, March 16