Interview - Ana Tijoux

Photo by JP Abello

Rapper Ana Tijoux was one of the busiest and most anticipated acts at LAMC, and I was lucky enough to have a chance to talk to her during the conference. We sat down at the piano near the balcony of the mezzanine level of the Roosevelt Hotel, and the first thing she did was ask me to play a little something. And how could I refuse? So, I played one of the two songs I remembered from the three weeks of piano lessons I took in third grade, “Yankee Doodle.” She had to be reminded she was in America, right?

Blanca: You were great at SummerStage last night. How do you feel about your performances so far?

Ana: It’s always a little bit weird for me to be presented in English. So, I end up laughing a lot because I’m terrible at speaking English. But I try to enjoy it because I know that nobody knows me here. In Latin America, people know me and know the songs when I sing them. Here, I have to introduce every song, which is good.

Blanca: Have you gotten a good reaction from the crowds?

Ana: The general feedback that I’m getting is along the lines of, “I don’t understand everything that you’re saying, but I like it.”

Blanca: That’s great that people are being so open to something they don’t fully understand.

Ana: Yes, because in Latin America, even if we don’t understand everything, we consume a lot of music in English. So, it’s good to see that same, maybe not at the same level, but that same sentiment here.

Blanca: You’ve been making music for quite some time, and now you’re one of the most hyped artists playing this conference. How does it feel to get this sudden wave of recognition?

Ana: Oh, I didn’t know that, that I am one of the most hyped artists. Thanks for telling me, so I can be prepared.

(This would have been a good moment for me to play a campy song on the piano. But, alas, I did not know any.)

Ana: I know I’ve been making music for a long time, and I’m getting older, but Indian people say that we aren’t mature until we are 48, so I am not mature yet. I still have a ways to go. I could be a teenager. So, I try to take things easy because you never know what will happen.

Blanca: When you first started as a musician, did you know that it was going to be your career?

Ana: When I started it was almost like a game. Not that I wasn’t very involved in what I was doing, but I never thought I was going to make my work of it. When I first started, I had a lot of passion and I wasn’t expecting anything from it. It was more like, who knows what’s going to happen? And I never expect much, so everything is amazing for me.

Blanca: That’s a good approach to have.

Ana: It’s good for life. So, when good stuff happens, it’s like “Wow! Wow!” like a kid. And I don’t want to lose that. And I have so many dreams in life. I know I’m a hip hop musician, but I admire so many different kinds of artists.

Blanca: You have a great singing voice. Have you thought about venturing into other genres?

Ana: I really like to rap, but, why not? I would love to make bossa nova. I believe in researching all the formats available for what you want to do. It’s like a painter, who her whole life has just been working in one medium, then all of the sudden discovers sculpture, and it’s like another universe. In creation, you have to be very free, never closed. To be free is the better way to arrive at what you want to arrive at.

Blanca: How is the music that you make now different from what you were doing when you first started?

Ana: I don’t know if it’s very, very different. The change is more in the lyrics. There’s something very interesting about writing. It allows me to say what I really want to say. The lyrics, in the end, are what most interest me. That’s what got me started in music.

Blanca: So, which one of your songs is most lyrically significant to you?

Ana: I really like “Crisis de un MC” because I really identify with the lyrics. It talks about the crisis of an artist, about the contradiction of having so much stimulation while still living in a lonely world. I know that sounds cliché, but I truly feel it. And all artists I’ve spoken to understand it because it spans all mediums. When you show your work to a lot of people, they think that they know you. But when you create your work you’re very selfish because you’re so concentrated on your creation and it’s a very internal work.

Blanca: Of course, an artist’s work is always very personal. So, how does it work when two or more artists are working together? What have been your most successful collaborations?

Ana: That’s a really good question. I don’t know if there’s one collaboration in particular that has been the most successful. But in collaborations, I always learn a lot. We all have so much to offer each other because each person is a universe.

I decided to leave it there, because what a lovely way to end an interview, right? Then I thanked her for her time and explained that the interview would be up on the blog soon. At this point, her eyes light up and she says, “I love blogs! I’ve been reading a lot of blogs about extraterrestrials!” So, of course, I have to tell her about my experience with a group of extraterrestrial enthusiasts when I was a reporter in Cape Town and how fascinating it was to talk to them about alien life. Then she keeps going on about how crazy she is over anything alien-related right now, so I have to ask her, “Are you going to be writing any songs about this?” Then she pauses and considers it, for what seems to be the first time. “Yes! Of course, yes!” So, you heard it here first. Ana Tijoux will be rapping about aliens soon.