by Abaki Beck
Our Feminist Hero this week is Ana Tijoux, one of a growing number of powerful, political female rappers. Tijoux was born in 1977 in France to parents who fled the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile. She gained prominence in the late 1990s with the hip-hop group Makiza before making her solo debut in 2006.
Her music is recognizable because it’s viscerally political; she doesn’t shy away from creating dialogue on political issues in Latin America and throughout the globe. She credits this political education to her parents, who regularly talked about social justice issues as she was growing up. When she was young, her father gave her a copy of Eduardo Galeano’s Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina, a violent and honest account of colonization in Latin America and the impact on its indigenous peoples. Though the topic was too complex for her six year old self, she revisited this and other texts by Galeano throughout her life, a reminder of her Latin American history and roots.
Tijoux’s music is bold, powerful, and vivid in its storytelling which has attracted the support of her legions of fans. However, she has said that she has received pushback for being a “political artist” as well. In an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, she noted: “We say "political," and everybody say, "No, no, no, no. Please, don’t touch that. Don’t go there. Like, make music, but don’t make political." But I think it’s got—had to do to be sensitive and sensible about what happened also, and I can make a difference between to be an artist and to be sensitive.” Music and art are incredibly powerful forms of social commentary and social change because they are accessible. As Tijoux notes, it’s both a reflection of the world as it is, and can be used to imagine a future world. It’s a form of storytelling that those without formal education can access, both as artists and listeners.
Each of her albums has a unique theme and attitude, in some ways reflective of the political climate and where she was in life. Her 2009 album 1977 explores themes of identity development and friendship discussing her struggles growing up as Chilean in France. La Bala (The Bullet) is an album of political protest and criticism, which was released during massive student protests and police clashes in 2012. This album is characteristic in it’s tone: rage. She noted: ““Chile has been a laboratory for neoliberalism and how everything has been privatized...I was seeing how those students and the new generation were having a social waking up. You can’t expect that people don’t react.” Her most recent album, Vengo, discusses indigenous pride, economic equality, environmentalism and feminism. Throughout the album, Andean music (such as the pan flute) is intermixed with her rapping. She noted in a Newsweek interview that the album is “The music of our parents. And then we translated it into hip-hop.” Indeed, her music reflects what Eduardo Galeano discusses in his texts, that we must rebuild and rewrite human history “from the nobodies’ voices.”
Tijoux says because she grew up with great machismo influence, she didn’t think about the importance of feminism until later in her life. Indeed, she notes that even the revolutionaries she was taught about as a child were all male. Today, she works to ensure her son Luciano has a political education so he is not complacent in repeating oppressions. Tijoux sites Gabriela Mistral (the first Nobel literature prize winner from Chile) and Simone de Beauvoir as influences in her feminist education.
Today, we celebrate her as a powerful artist and storyteller, unafraid to spark dialogue, celebrate the marginalized, and critique the fuck out of colonialism.
Here's a sample of her music to add to your powerful women of color making powerful music playlist:
"Shock" (highlighting Chilean student protesters)
"Antipatriarca" (which has Andean musical influences)
"Somos Sur" featuring Palestinian rapper Shadia Mansour