“It’s our first time in Miami, and we’re very happy to be here” was the only small talk we heard from the 5’2”, pretty, dark-haired lady wearing purple tennis shoes, leopard print tights, and a comfy, plaid, button-up shirt.
Her name is Ana Tijoux, and she builds puzzles with words, making up images that begin to take form as soon as she starts rhythmically spitting them over catchy beats with the easy flow of casual conversation. Despite the pop backdrop, Tijoux’ lyrics are neither light nor pretty. With a career similar to M.I.A.’s in both source of inspiration and form, she raps about government injustices that she has experienced firsthand.
Tijoux’s parents had to flee their country when Pinochet — the Chilean dictator — took over. They went to France, where their daughter was born in 1977, a number she has tattooed on the top of her right hand. It’s also the title of her second solo album, which was released in 2009 by La Oveja Negra in Chile and ultimately praised by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, nominated for a Grammy for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album, and re-released by US-based Latin Alternative label Nacional Records in 2010.
The song “1977”, the first single off the album, was featured on the AMC television series Breaking Bad and on the soundtrack of FIFA ’11. Tijoux later performed the track for NPR’S Tiny Desk Concert series.
Having toured across Europe and the U.S., Tijoux finally made it to Miami Saturday night for her show at the downtown venue PAX. Her delicate voice delivered powerful, sometimes angry lines that spoke to bleak realities and also to hope, to ways in which we can resist and persist to live free amid oppression. From “Shock”, which deals with massive student protests occurring in Chile and around the world: “Todo este tubo de ensayo/Todo este laboratorio que a diario/todo este fallo/Todo este económico modelo condenado de dinosaurio.” Translation: “This test tube/This daily lab/This failure/This damned economic model of dinosaurs.”
From “Sacar la Voz” (“To Let the Voice Out”), which she dedicated to a Chilean minister who had decided that protesting was “dangerous”: “El tema no es caerse/Levantarse es la victoria/Venir de vuelta/Sacar la voz que estaba muerta/Y hacerla orquesta.” Translation: “It’s not about falling down/Victory is in standing up/To make a comeback/To let the dead voice out and make it an orchestra.”
Both songs are from Tijoux’s new album, La Bala (The Bullet), released by Nacional Records in January. Thankfully she also performed older songs such as “Humanidad” (“Humanity”), “Obstáculo” (“Obstacle”), and “1977”, which, two days later, is still playing in my head.
With the beautiful mixture of orchestral strings, brass, and hip-hop on her new album, Tijoux seems to be responding to past criticism that her music is “regressive” in its beats and production. But even if that were true, Tijoux’s words and cadence would be good enough. A supremely talented artist, Tijoux represents the underrepresented and reminds us that possibility exists as long as we find a way to let our voice out.