photo manipulation by nacrowe
years ago when my time as a PEACE CORPS volunteer in ALBANIA was coming to a close, i learned that i was able to secure a teaching position at an international school in VENEZUELA. its funny because i have former peers on the international teaching circuit who will only take positions in first-world situations like EUROPE, AUSTRALIA or select countries in the MIDDLE EAST and ASIA. i've actively sought out places that weren't necessarily in line with what i was familiar with (which explains my teaching career of being in MYANMAR, ALBANIA and of course VENEZUELA).
anyway, once learning i was gonna be in SOUTH AMERICA in 6 months i went about reading as much as i could about VENEZUELA and the region. i highly recommend EDUARDO GALEANO's epic ant-colonialist OPEN VEINS OF SOUTH AMERICA (MONTHLY REVIEW PRESS, 1971) as well as COMANDANTE (PENGUIN, 2013) by RORY CARROLL of THE GUARDIAN newspaper. i also investigated for months as much SOUTH AMERICAN music as i could locate online.
so glad i did because i discovered the music of ANA TIJOUX. she is a CHILEAN MC by way of FRANCE and her work is entirely an extension of her unique political, socio-economic and inclusive worldview. i very much view her in the tradition of other politically conscious artists of years past like PUBLIC ENEMY, WOODY GUTHRIE, M.I.A. and RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE.
her parents emigrated from CHILE to FRANCE in the 1970s after the overthrow and murder of the democratically-elected SALVADOR ALLENDE by the UNITED STATES-backed military dictator AUGOSTO PINOCHET. what followed in CHILE was a brutal military dictatorship that basically fell in line with the insatiable capitalist needs of the AMERICAN economy for copper (which we use for electrical wiring and consumer electronics).
when i listen to the music of TIJOUX i am reminded of the perspectives of the inhabitants of countries who resources are essentially exploited for western capitalism. its a narrative often ignored and wholesale discounted.
discovering her work and the pride she showed in being SOUTH AMERICAN was something i greatly admired even before i got to the continent. the music itself often makes use of elements of indigenous music and re-contextualizes them in a HIP HOP context, much like M.I.A. before with the indian subcontinent or SEPULTURA with the XANANTE tribe of eastern BRASIL on their album ROOTS.
i highly recommend her music to anyone interested in HIP HOP or LATIN AMERICAN culture. totally worth it.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
when SRI LANKAN-born, BRITISH mc M.I.A. came on the scene in the 2000s she was a revelation partly due to the unique production of her first two records and partly due to the unique global scope of her lyrics.
given the dearth of powerful female mcs at the time (and since), it is quite remarkable that this daughter of emigre political refugees from SRI LANKA (her father was involved with the TAMIL TIGERS) would assume such an outspoken role in such a hostile genre. it is not lost on anyone that women involved in the genre usually have to debase themselves with overly sexualized videos in order to gain traction in the industry (exemplified by likes of NICKI MINAJ, CARDI B, RIHANNA, MEGAN THEE STALLION, LIL' KIM and FOXY BROWN). in a sense M.I.A. is a bit of a throwback to a previous era where women where considered equals in terms of their lyrical content (artists like SALT-N-PEPA, QUEEN LATIFAH, MC LYTE, LAUREN HILL and MISSY ELLIOT). it is almost comical that she was side-by-side with NICKI MINAJ in a now overlooked MADONNA video, since in my mind they are opposite ends of the spectrum, almost like comparing PJ HARVEY or PATTI SMITH to CHRISTINA AGUILERA. but maybe i am off-base for making comparisons between female artists. let them have the freedom to portray themselves as they wish to represented. amen.
for me what separates M.I.A. from her competition (of both genders) is her use of sound collages and lyrical refrains that represent the hidden communities of underdeveloped countries around the world. hearing a song that deconstructs the power of money ("$20" off of KALA) within a third-world context is something that i have seen firsthand abroad living in NIGERIA and ALBANIA but have rarely come across in pop culture. it is just not part of the idiom of mass entertainment. same goes for her visuals which can showcase everything from amorous GIFS from the ARAB world (think about how much subterfuge is involved in that) to BOLLYWOOD dance production to Indian subcontinent visual culture of hand-painted shop signs.
when i hear her records i intuit that i am riding along an artist in full control of her artistic vision. not to get back to my point about female representation in HIP HOP, but i get the feeling M.I.A. would never allow herself to get drawn into that game. in her i see another singular artist in the vein of past luminaries like BJÖRK, EMMYLOU HARRIS, PJ HARVEY, CARLY SIMON, JANIS JOPLIN, PATTI SMITH and MARIANNE FAITHFUL who follow their own distinct lead.
could not recommend her music any stronger. check her out.