Arts, Culture & Media

Singer Ana Tijoux blends traditional 'altiplano' sounds with rap in the soundtrack of Chile's student protests

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Credit: Courtesy of Ana Tijoux

French-Chilean singer Ana Tijoux

I'd like to introduce you to altiplano music. Hang on, did I just go all ethnomusicology on you?

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Well, here's some really cool altiplano music from Chile that I can't stop listening to, from Ana Tijoux:

Altiplano music is Spanish for "high plains" and it refers to the Andes highlands in South America. You can hear the Andean vibe on that track, Antipatriarca.

Tijoux is a sort of new high plains drifter. She shuttles between rap and altiplano on her new album, VengoBefore, she had almost always focused on rap. 

But while writing songs for Vengo, she began taking guitar lessons with a friend, who brought along a charango, a small version of the lute from the Andes.

"He began playing charango and, I don't know, I became super over-emotional, like 'Wow.' I can't explain. You listen to those instruments, and something that comes from I don't know where begins to touch you in a certain way that you can't even explain. So that's when I understand I need to put charango, quenas, all these organic wood instruments in this album," Tijoux says.

The name of her album is inherently political. Vengo translates to "I come" — and on the title track, she wheels out verses like:

I come to build a dream,
The brightness of life that inhabits the new man,
I come looking for an ideal of a world without class that can rise up.

There's been a lot of rising up in Chile since 2011, primarily student protests. Tijoux's songs have been the soundtrack to a lot of those protests, which she says are far from over.

"I think it will be a year of a lot of movement, from the students, from the high school, not the universities, but the most radical are the high school kids. They are more clear about everything — about the power. Because they're all these people saying beautiful stuff, but they are all friends, they all live togeter in the same neighborhood, they all go to the same schools."

Something tells me her songs about class-struggle will continue to frame that debate in Chile.

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