Ana Tijoux: Addressing Global Unrest In Rhyme Born in France after her Chilean parents fled Pinochet's regime, Tijoux has become one of the biggest names in Latin-American hip-hop. Her new album, La Bala, examines the current political struggles in Chile and abroad.

Ana Tijoux: Addressing Global Unrest In Rhyme

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Time now for music and how the child of Chilean exiles became one of the biggest names in Latin American hip-hop.


RAZ: This is the music of hip-hop artist Ana Tijoux. She was born in France in 1977 to parents who fled the repressive regime of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Ana and her parents went home after democracy returned to Chile in 1990.

Her breakout record, "1977," which came out two years ago and what we're listening to now, was autobiographical. It was about dual identities and what she calls a life of shadowboxing against her parents' tormentors. Ana Tijoux's follow-up album is about the world today, about the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement and student demonstrations in Chile. The record's just out. It's called "La Bala" or "The Bullet."

ANA TIJOUX: The difference with this new album, "La Bala," is like, this is a conversation with the world.

RAZ: What's the conversation that you're having with the world?

TIJOUX: I mean, like, when - I live in Chile, and of course, with all those student protests and this parallel situation that is happening with Indignados in Spain or the crisis in Greece, or Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Oakland.

RAZ: You're watching Occupy Wall Street protests and the Arab Spring protests and protests, as you mentioned, in Chile and in Spain and Greece, and you sort of connected the dots, as many people have, and said something is going on in the world.

TIJOUX: Mmm. Totally. Yes.

RAZ: And it seems like you leap right into that world with the song "La Bala," which in English means "The Bullet."


TIJOUX: It was almost like a storyboard in my head about the murder of a kid and the death - dancing around his dead body. In the second verse, it's like the mother that find this kid on the floor and how the little angel begin to cry around the body. So it was super epic at the same time, which I never made it before.

RAZ: The song "La Bala," there's been some speculation that it was written - inspired by an incident in Chile last year where a 16-year-old named Manuel Gutierrez Reinoso, a student, was killed by Chilean police during a protest. Is the song inspired in part by that incident?

TIJOUX: After I made the song, like, it was not writing for somebody special. And then when Manuel Gutierrez is killed, I was thinking, this is the song for Manuel, which it was very crazy. And everybody was asking me like, did you made this song for Manuel? I say, no, but I feel that it's crazy how it fits so well at the same time - this is his story. So perhaps it's an intuition. Who knows?

RAZ: That incident, and of course, those protests, which became violent, came as quite a shock to many people in Chile who remember the violence of an earlier period, the violence that your parents experienced. As I mentioned before, you were born in France. Your parents fled Chile during the military dictatorship under General Augusto Pinochet. Did you see yourself as an exile as well?

TIJOUX: I think that all the kid that are born, like, outside the country of the parents, I think that you always live with that duality. I used to speak Spanish, but not so well at the time. I used to have an accent.


TIJOUX: So I think that is part of that construction of identity, also, where you trying to understand who you are, where you come from, but at the same time be very respectful about where you are living. Like, I mean, France offered exile to my parents, and I had an amazing friends and amazing education there also. So I think that with time I was being more understood by myself.

RAZ: It's interesting because you say you had an accent when you spoke Spanish when you were younger. And of course, now, you rap in Spanish and - have you ever thought about making a record in French?

TIJOUX: I've thought about it. But at the same times, like, I live in Chile and I feel that I'm still trying to understand this continent of South America. And I feel that I've got so much to learn about our people and our culture. And I mean, all the country in South America - I was just in Peru, Columbia and Brazil - and every time, it's like, wow, I've got to travel more, I've got to mix more with Latin American music. I've got to know more of where we come from. So it's not that I don't want to rap in French. It's just that I'm just beginning to explore South America in all the sense.

And at the same times, I got to be honest. I love to rap in a language where I can go to Mexico and they understand me, I can go to Panama, to Bolivia and they're understanding what I'm talking about.

RAZ: I'm speaking with French Chilean hip-hop artist Ana Tijoux. Her new record is called "La Bala." Ana, we - you actually recently played the first single off your new record on this program, and the song is called "Shock."


RAZ: Now, the chorus repeats the words shock doctrine over and over again. Am I right in thinking that the song is related to the book by Naomi Klein, "The Shock Doctrine"?

TIJOUX: Totally yes. My father gave me the book, and I've got to think that I was super inspired by the book. Like, I feel that it was very clear, very explicative, like, about what happened in Chile because she's talked basically about the doctrine of shock that has been in story and all the war with corporations.

RAZ: It's a critique of capitalism, essentially.

TIJOUX: Of course, and how it has been in Chile - in Chile like as a laboratory.

RAZ: When you talk about the book "Shock Doctrine" and how, in your view, Chile has been kind of a laboratory, you know, a lot of people would say, well, Chile is the most prosperous country in Latin America with the highest standards of living. But what is it that you see in your own country that you also sort of found in that book that disturbs you?

TIJOUX: What disturbed me about this book, I think, is about the way that we are leaning. There is no logic in the system. There is no logic where, like, the poor is more and more poor and poor in a way that is miserable. Like, we can talk about prosperity because this segregation and this space between rich and poor are bigger and bigger.

When you go to a ghetto in Oakland, or if you go to a ghetto in Chicago, or if you go to a favela in Brazil, or if you go on a poblacione in Chile, the same situation happens, situation of poverty. And that's why you see the eyes of a kid of Oakland or you see the eyes of a kid in favela in Brazil, they are the same eyes, the same eyes when you feel like, I can't be who I want to be. It's like, there is no open door. There is no possibility. It's the story of South America. It's the story of all the ghettos of the world.


RAZ: Ana, you are well known in Latin America. You've been around for a long time. You were in a rap group when you were younger in the 1990s. You're now a mom. You've got a son. Does it change the way you kind of think of yourself as an artist and as an activist because you have this other part of your life that is presumably the most important part of your life?

TIJOUX: I think it's the most beautiful place of revolution when you get this conversation with your kid alone with no camera, no music. You and your kid, this is the real place of revolution, love-olution.



RAZ: That's French Chilean musician Ana Tijoux speaking to me from Santiago in Chile. Her new record is called "La Bala," and it's out now. Ana Tijoux, thank you so much.

TIJOUX: Thank you so much for the interview and the good questions.


RAZ: And for Saturday, that WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz. We're back with a whole new hour of radio tomorrow. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great night.

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