Chilean/French rapper Ana Tijoux has been winning a lot of fans, both for her great music and for her political messages. Born in France to parents exiled by the Pinochet regime, she comes by her politics naturally. As a teenager, Tijoux moved back to Santiago and became part of the local hip-hop scene, rapping in both French and English.
Her album 1977, released in 2009, was nominated for a Grammy Award. Her latest album, La Bala, meaning "The Bullet," is also generating a lot of buzz. The lead single “Shock” was inspired by Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine, and the song also became an anthem for students in Chile demanding educational reform. Tijoux exposes the political and economic injustices she sees around her with some great music.
She’s on the road in Canada right now, playing shows in Montreal and Toronto. I spoke with Tijoux on the phone a couple days ago, before her show in Montreal, and asked her a few questions.
Q: Last week you released a version of “Shock” in support of the immigrant community in Arizona. Why did you decide to lend your voice to the Alto Arizona movement in support of migrants' rights?
A: It’s pretty obvious. I don’t understand why everyone is so surprised that I made it. It’s a problem that affects all of our people. It’s normal that when you hear about this point of view to be interested in going and learning about the story and seeing how you can use your platform to help; to let the people not forget what’s happening right now and what could happen in other places in North America.
Watch the video in defence of immigrants' rights in Arizona:
Q: How does your upbringing as a child of Chilean parents exiled by the Pinochet regime affect your politics?
A: In every way. First of all, look at any immigration, even if you’re not a child of refugees or a political immigrant. You don’t need to live in a dictatorship to be a political immigrant…. It’s like the movement of immigration and movement because of economic situation … that becomes political immigration … and that affects my view of the world by making me critical and reflective about the situation faced by others – very simply, your problem is my problem.
Q: You’ve stated that your song “Shock” was partially inspired by Canadian writer Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Do you know how she feels about that song?
A: She tweeted me and we chatted on the internet. She was very thankful for the song. Because I feel [that the message] is even bigger than her or the book or me or the music. It’s about letting the message go and continue travelling. At the same time, I feel her feedback in a very humble way. It was very hard to summarize her work, but I feel that’s the magic of the music.
Q: How would you like to see Canadians respond to the political messages in your music?
A: Be reflective. The debate is bigger than music, bigger than everything…. Musically speaking, I like to have a dialogue with people and laugh also … and politically, I feel that everything is political, so I would say let the people enjoy and let’s reflect together.
Q: What book are you reading right now that is influencing your creative process?
A: Today I began to read a very old book that I read as a kid and didn’t understand very well. Eduardo Galeano’s, Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina (Open Veins of Latin America), and a Zapatista book about a journalist who lived with the Zapatistas for 10 years. And a little book by Antonin Artaud, a surrealist poet.
Q: How does your identity as a mother influence the way you see the world?
A: It’s very important, once you are a parent, that you educate your kid day by day. So it’s funny to be a mother and not agree with the way the school teaches my kid; and try at home to explain another vision of the world. My kid is seven years old and is learning to read and conjugate, but I don’t agree with that kind of education because I feel that the concepts are not contextualized … it’s interesting to try to make my kid a reflective boy, rather than just a repetitive boy, even if he doesn’t agree with me.
Q: After the massive success of your last two albums, 1977 and La Bala, what’s next on the horizon for you?
A: To be honest, I’m thinking of writing a little book. But very small, nothing very big. I’m feeling more and more thoughts that aren’t songs, just reflections. I’m always been very shy and in some ways a prisoner in one language and I feel that the liberation of creativity has to be in all senses. So I’ve been deciding to publishing something very simple but very small at the same time, nothing egocentric.
And I’ve been thinking about going back to university. I need more tools to continue to apply to the music. I’ve got to open myself up to more language. But these are just ideas right now.
This interview was edited and condensed from the original.
Ana Tijoux plays at Harbourfront in Toronto on Friday July 20.
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on Jul 20, 2012