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Ana Tijoux Redefines Herself With Latin Folk Music

Ana Tijoux
Courtesy of the Artist
Ana Tijoux

In the spring of 2014, I was in the audience at , the massive music festival held in Mexico City every year, when Chilean hip-hop artist Ana Tijoux took the stage.

I was expecting the kind of riveting performance I saw in 2012 in New York, full of the rhythmic verbal intensity and bravura that made her one of the fiercest MC's in any language.

But what I saw instead was a set that was full of singing that was confident, playful, emotive, sensual and (to my surprise) steeped in soul.

Ana Tijoux is about to make good on the singing preview I witnessed. Her upcoming album, Roja Y Negro: Canciones de Amor Y Desamor (Red and Black: Songs For Being In Love and Falling Out Of Love), is an acoustic guitar celebration of Latin American folk music.

This exploration of a new direction isn't really out of the blue for Tijoux. She was born in France to Chilean parents who were in exile from the brutal dictatorship back home and she has said singer-songwriters with messages were on her parents' playlist when she was a kid. She has said in a statement:

"From my earliest years I took inspiration for my lyrics from singer-songwriters such as Chico Buarque, Violeta Para, Victor Jara, Mercedes Sosa – revolutionaries with an acoustic guitar, who to me are not so different from my hip-hop heroes."

Tijoux and her stripped-down sound will embark on a limited U.S. tour this month, and to whet our appetites, she's released a video for Roja Y Negro's first single, "Tinta Roja." It features a collaboration with Mexican vocalist , who seems to be granting Tijoux her blessings as one of the foremost practitioners of classic and historic Latin folk music.

Ana Tijoux has more than made her mark in the music she grew up with. But in a way she comes of age with this music. These are the kinds of songs that — after you've lived, loved and lost a bit — have the potential to mean much more, both to the performer and the listener.

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Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.