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SXSW: A conversation with French-Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux

The 13th Annual Latin GRAMMY Awards - Arrivals

Jason Merritt/Getty Images for Latin Recording Academy

Musician Ana Tijoux arrives at the 13th annual Latin GRAMMY Awards held at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on November 15, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Back now to Austin, where we're going to get some more music from South by Southwest. 

You might recognize French-Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux's song "1977," which was featured in the AMC series "Breaking Bad." 

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After it aired, the buzz about her music started to spread, but Ana's been around for a while. Now she has a new album coming out called "Vengo." Tonight she's performing in Austin at South By Southwest, which is where we caught up with her.

Interview Highlights:

How does your family history influence you, if at all?

"I think that we need to have roots, any kind of roots, whatever you come from, whatever is the history of your parents or your family. I think when you understand that your identity, the history of your family or your parents, you understand who you are and more than that you understand where you want to go and how you want to go in this life. So in my case, of course, like my parents leave a dictatorship and as a lot of people, they leave the country and I was born in France and the story of my country and the story of almost all the countries in South America, all the dictatorships and coup d'etat so that's an obvious way in how you write your lyric and because it's your vision about the world, also."

You moved to Chile just to pursue music?

"Of course, yes. Of course is because I was born in France and I used to listen, of course, to French hip hop and a lot of Arabian music from my friends and African music so when I arrived to Chile I had to learn all this new country that was my country, but at this moment it was a new country for me and tried to understand that the culture and the vision of this Chile that was going through after a dictatorship and trying to rebuild from a war, basically. So that was one of the more tough stuff that happened to me, but also I think I never grow up so much during that time."

What's the rap scene in Chile?

"I don't believe in nationalities so I will not say that, 'Oh, this is an amazing scene.' But there is a lot of quality in the scene of Chile and I would say why, because our identity has been so killed, no? So we are good rappers because I think we have been trying to find our identity also in this language."

Is the singing in your new album a departure or a tough stretch for you?

"I think it was natural to sing. I always have been singing, but I never thought that I had a great voice to be honest, but I think it has been natural like it was just a necessity."

In this album you reflect a little more. What drove you to change up your style in this album?

"My idea, it was to make an album that my kids could understand also. So 'Mi verdad' talk basically about a kid that has been rejected from everywhere because of skin color and that had to take the role of the father at home and basically I'm talking like if I was him, no? And he's saying like, 'So yes, I don't need your authority because I've got my own, and we don't have your houses, but we have community, we don't have your mansions, but we have solidarity.' So I always said that it's political, but I really wanted to make songs that my mother, my grandmother could understand at the same time, you know. Because sometimes when you make hardcore hip hop, it's like those kind of styles that my grandmother support me, but she doesn't understand nothing of what I'm singing, but with this kind of song she understand and at the end, the message is the same, I think."

Why do you decide to use some of those indigenous sounds?

"For the exact story that you're telling me. I mean, this necessity of using Latino American music, it was something that I had in my head since a long time ago. I was taking guitar classes with an amazing friend of mine in Chile and we was playing guitar and then he begin to play charango, which is Chilean instrument that they use also in Peru and Bolivia and I don't know if I was super emotional, I don't know, but I begin almost crying like, 'Oh this is so beautiful.'

"What is crazy is that any person in Chile or whatever in Latino America when we listen to this music and it doesn't matter if you listen to rock or indie or hip hop, you begin to be super, over emotional and that's because it told me something that I think is the best explanation that, like what you were telling me about Ecuador. That has got to do with the music of your grandfather and your grandmother. It's almost like the music of the land and your land and you can't even explain it, coming through like your skin and you feel it immediately no? And I said yes. You know what? We've got to put a little quenas and charangos and a lot of percussion in this album."

How did you feel after hearing your music in "Breaking Bad"?

"Amazing because everybody was telling me this series is amazing. And to be honest, I'm not so crazy about series but then I saw breaking bad and I say, 'Wow, I love this guy. This guy is the most bizarre guy.' Everything was fitting in the anti hero, which I like it and I begin to be super fan of 'Breaking Bad' after."


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