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Ana Tijoux Celebrates ‘Vida’ Amid Mourning, Rebirth & Empowerment

today01/18/2024

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After a decadelong hiatus since her Grammy-nominated Vengo, Ana Tijoux — synonymous with the trailblazing spirit of Latin American hip-hop — returns with Vida, her fifth solo album.

The 15-track LP stems from a period of intense personal experiences for the legendary Chilean rapper, particularly shaped by the dual forces of loss and motherhood. It’s a profound statement on existence and a celebration of life’s ebbs and flows.

Her introspection in Vida is encapsulated in tracks like “Millonaria,” where she juxtaposes the metaphorical richness of personal relationships against material wealth; the Afrobeats of “Bailando Sola Aquí,” about the importance of returning to the center of oneself; or “Busco Mi Mombre,” which explores identity, memory and resilience — verses like “Rompieron la puerta sin aviso, te arranaron de mí sin permiso” (“They broke the door without warning, tore you away from me without permission”) hint at a personal and collective grief over those unjustly taken.

Vida is a response, unfortunately, to many people who passed away, people very close to me. It’s also a response to what happened with those departures,” the artist tells Billboard Español.

Motherhood, a recurring influence in Tijoux’s life and art, continues to shape her perspective. In the years between Vengo and Vida, it has influenced her worldview, infusing her music with a nuanced understanding of life’s complexities. This evolution is evident in the way she approaches her craft, learning to navigate emotional landscapes with a renewed sense of gratitude and self-compassion.

From her beginnings with rap group Makiza in the ’90s to her solo success with hits like “1977”, Tijoux has always forged her own path. Vida continues this tradition: it is a tale of resistance, revolution and the unwavering spirit of an artist who continues to redefine the contours of Latin hip-hop. “I think the most beautiful thing is that there are no pioneers here, there is an existing fabric and we build together,” adds Tijoux. “It’s not false humility, the world of hip-hop and rap is community. Therein lies its strength and its construction on its axis, and that makes all the beauty of this genre”.

The wordsmith talks to Billboard Español from Barcelona about her comeback.

Vida is your first album in ten years, what motivated you to go back to the studio?

After a decade, between life and motherhood, an avalanche of things happened. Vida is a response, unfortunately, to many people who passed away, people very close to me. It is also a response to what happened with those departures that sometimes are very hard. I don’t know why humans sometimes need those things that move us to create, or in this case to write or make songs.

Unfortunately, sometimes tragedies inspire that creative side of us to release. “Millionaire,” for example, is joyful and brims with metaphors.

“Millionaire” justly is a way of thanking my family and the people I appreciate, which have been many links woven through the years. They make me feel that I am a very lucky person. Understanding that we live in a very crazy time, of asking “what do you want to have to be lucky?” I feel full of jewels of people around me. That’s why the irony is carats, using this metaphor of bling. It’s ironic but grateful, to pay homage to all those people who for me are more than people — people who mark me and build me and allow me to walk.

You are the mother of two children. How has motherhood influenced your artistic career?

In every sense. Everyone lives motherhood in a very different way. I don’t think there is one way to live it. There’s also a side where you are faced with a lot of fears, trying to do the best you can, with a million mistakes. And within these mistakes, I believe that dialogue with one’s children is also very important. With this career, which is very beautiful but also very demanding, trying to deal with the labor demands, which in the end is a profession. Raising and trying to give tools to help one’s children, I believe that there is an influence in everything that one is. It is evident that this marks and sets the tone of how one perceives the world.

During the creation of Vida, how did you overcome creative challenges and what did you learn about yourself in the process?

I have learned how not to be so hard on myself. I dare say that many artists I have met from different musical genres or different areas, one works with emotions. It’s not a linear thing, it’s not numerical, it’s from emotion, from that swaying, from things that happen; some beautiful and others more complex that have to do with exposure, expectations, both personal and external…and pressure. I am also grateful to a lot of people I don’t know in person, but who make it possible for me to continue working. In that turmoil of emotions, one tries to surf the wave. I think it’s fun to take age, to grow old or to observe how one goes as the years go by. Approaching the work with these learnings, at the point of achievements but also of mistakes.

The album has notable and very diverse collaborations, with Talib Kweli, Plug 1 of De La Soul, iLe, Pablo Chill-E, among others. How do you choose your collaborations?

The collaborations came very naturally. Each one is a universe, each artist is a planet. You go through how you learn through each person you collaborate with. I think that the songs commanded and shouted those specific people, and I love that because they are all very different. It’s nice to be able to discover those planets and to invite them into mine and dialogue.

The production is a mix of hip-hop, jazz and Latin American rhythms, how are these diverse influences fused into a cohesive expression?

Andrés Celis has been in charge of the production, with whom we have made the two previous albums. Andrés comes from the world of jazz, but he is also very curious. He is very open to the richness of the multiplicity of sonorities that exist around the world. I think he translates very well these questions, this desire to explore in the songs.

As a leading figure in the Spanish-language rap scene and a pioneer since Makiza, how do you see the evolution of the genre from your point of view?

It’s nice because now I see a lot of women from different parts, many from Chile, with whom I have a super good vibe or I am very admiring. It gives me a kind of healthy envy to say, “¡Pucha! Why wasn’t I born later?” I would have had more sisters and colleagues, ¿cachai? Yes, there were in my time, but we were few. Now I see a diversity and multiplicity, crossing Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, in so many other countries. There is a new crop of incredible artists that come with a momentum, with a grit and a hunger. Also to be able to share their flow, their experiences, their sorrows, their joys, and their questions as a woman. I see that there is a lot of richness now. There is a volcano of things that are happening from a new generation that is very eager to express itself, and that is always very healthy. In the end it shows a very vital Latin America, with many very vital women.

In Chile I’m a big fan of Irina Doom, La Mística, La Flor del Rap, 22RUZZ. There’s a girl from the Dominican Republic who is amazing at rapping, and a couple of Mexican girls that I love. They are very precise when it comes to rhyming, flow and meter. There is a girl from the Dominican Republic who is amazing at rapping, and a couple of Mexican girls that I love. They are very precise when it comes to rhyming, flow and meter. Aside from the tone of a woman’s voice, it’s very different from a man’s voice. The fact that it has higher tones allows an exploration in other tonalities that I say, “Wow, that’s cool!” I think the most beautiful thing is that there are no pioneers here, there is an existing fabric and we build together. It’s not false humility; the world of hip-hop and rap is a community. Therein lies its strength and its construction on its axis, and that makes all the beauty of this genre.

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