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Chilean Rapper Turns to Folk Music to Honor Dead in New Song

  • Ana Tijoux's songs include the topic of love and loss

    Ana Tijoux's songs include the topic of love and loss | Photo: AFP

Published 22 July 2016

Ana Tijoux presents the Latin American tradition of honoring the dead and their values, including those who fought against the Pinochet dictatorship.

Chilean rapper Ana Tijoux released a new song called “Calaveritas” to honor the dead and part of a memorial to those who lost their lives during the dictatorship.

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Calaveritas, which means little skulls, explains the feeling of love and respect for those who have passed away, that is rooted in Latin American culture.

“Calaveritas is an homage to those who've passed away,” said Tijoux in a statement by her music label Firebrand Records. “A song that tells us that our loved ones are never really gone, that they live with us in both our happiest moments and accompany us in the saddest of times.”

The song, recorded with Mexican artist Celso Piña, invites listeners to remember those who are gone. Part of the lyrics reads "We all carry within us / one who died before us / who appears when night falls and the sun goes out"

This is her first new material in over two years, now with Firebrand, a label started by Tom Morello and Ryan Harvey focused on releasing socially conscious music.

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“It's more of a completing departure, one that emphasizes the more emotional and spiritual sides of life, love, and liberation,” Ryan Harvey told teleSUR.

Tijoux is also known for writing and performing songs to denounce injustices, abuse against women and discrimination.

The artist includes in this song a quote by a priest named Pierre Dubois, who fought the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in Chile during the 70s. Dubois’ quote in the lyrics reads: “It is not enough to say that justice takes time but it arrives. Justice that is not exercised when appropriate is already unfair.”

Tijoux’s parents were exiled during the dictatorship and she was born in France, she later moved to Chile and became a hip hop artist. She was inspired by singers Victor Jara and Violeta Parra, part of the Chilean folklore, called the New Chilean Song. This movement was known for producing songwriters and performers who denounced the coup against Salvador Allende and the following U.S. backed military dictatorship.

“To capture it in a sort of Chilean Nueva Cancion context, Calaveritas is more Parra than Jara, and certainly on the experimental-folk side of hip-hop,” Harvey told teleSUR. “It's a bit personal-as-political, and trying to capture a phenomenon of life and death that many of us can relate to in a very intimate way.”

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