France received many political refugees during Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship of Chile during the 1970s and 80s. In 1977 Anamaria Merino was born in Paris to an exiled Chilean father and a French mother. In the 90s democracy was restored to Chile and the Merino family relocated there, where Anamaria changed her name to Ana Tijoux and immersed herself in the hip hop scene. Tijoux fronted rap group Makiza before striking it out on her own with impressive results (her second album, 1977, was nominated for a Grammy).
La Bala is Tijoux’s third solo album, and it’s a genre and culture-bending experience that flows from stern to sexy to political. Tijoux has explained that the single Shock was informed by the recent Occupy protests. “I was inspired by these social movements, writing from my perspective as a mother, musician and citizen. I thought it was important to pay homage to these protestors.” While most words are Spanish and French, most songs are textured and haunting enough to have meaning for English-speakers.
Opening song La Bala is an appropriate call to action with its military drums, gun shots and edge of cabaret. In this song, as on the album, Tijoux seamlessly combines her silky rhymes with smoky singing. Shock also has an authoritarian feel with an ominous, regimented beat and a tuneful take on a police siren. Tijoux raps against violins on Desclasificado, an operatic take on hip hop. Elsewhere she uses sing-along oohs, languid bedroom rhymes and spacey guitars, trip hop elements and fiercely rolling ‘r’s to complete her smart and enriching album.
Kathryn van Beek
Click here to listen to Las Cosas Por Su Nombre from La Bala: