Cinematic Soundtrack

French-Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux composes a new record full of vivid, moving imagery

July 12, 2012

Inside French-Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux’s mind is a constantly unfolding film.

“I’m super fond of DVD commentaries,” she says, explaining the inspiration for her latest disc, “La Bala.” “So, I imagined this album almost like a tragic movie. I was imagining everything as scene one, scene two, scene three.”

Spitting Spanish-language verses in a Chilean lilt, Tijoux not only narrates stories of tragedy, violence and dissent but also comments on them as they unfold — a tricky toggle between perspectives.

Take the title track, a grim account of a murder.

“The first verse talks about this bullet arriving to this guy who’s going to die — and, boom!” Tijoux says. “During the chorus, the dead are dancing around him and laughing. The second verse is the mother finding the body of her son on the floor, and she’s crying and screaming. The dead are super afraid of her. I was imagining them as a Greek chorus.”

Of course, listeners who don’t speak Spanish are unlikely to pick up on the subtleties or meanings of her lyrics, but that hasn’t stopped the trilingual rapper from finding audiences all over the world. Tijoux — who was born in France after her parents fled Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship of Chile in the 1970s — has toured the U.S. several times and received a Grammy nomination for her previous album, “1977.”

Even as she becomes a global figure, Tijoux remains rooted in Chile — so much so that “La Bala” serves as a commentary track on the state of the nation during the ongoing student protests that began in May 2011. She recorded the album in the capital city of Santiago as young students took to the streets to decry decreases in education funding.

“My country is very small and it’s at the end of the world,” she says. “So, all these protests were like the waking of an entire country. It’s not only about students now. It’s about everybody asking questions.”

Still, Tijoux doesn’t see herself as an especially political artist, just someone who’s engaged with her surroundings. “I’ve got a lot of questions, and I feel like the music allows me to reflect on what’s going on.”

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