Motorco Music Hall, Durham
Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015
There was some mild cognitive dissonance when Ana Tijoux started her set Thursday night at a sold-out Motorco. Wearing her signature large hoop earrings, a chevron print dress and braided hair, the rapper launched into her first song, "Antipatriarca,"
a rousing womanist anthem. Attendees who had crowded near the stage jumped and grinded in excitement to the beats, but barely sang along—the rhymes were all in rapid-fire Chilean Spanish.
Tijoux didn't take long to point out and take advantage of the situation's oddity, wryly testing the crowd. "It really is strange for us. We didn't ever think we would come to Durham," the artist mused. "North Carolina? Has any group from North Carolina ever been to Chile?" When she asked this in Spanish, various attendees screamed in glee.
"You don't understand Spanish!" she retorted in English. "Go back to university!"
Strange as it might have seemed to Tijoux, this was a big day for Latin American hip-hop at local universities. Duke Performances offered a free lunchtime talk and mini-performance with Tijoux, open to the public through Duke's Artist-in-Residency program. UNC brought in Tzutu Baktun Kan, representing Maya hip-hop group Balam Ajpu
, on tour from Guatemala, along with Durham's Lil Chuy, to play at the Mandela Auditorium the same afternoon.
For those who attended all three events, there likely seemed a predominance of Spanish speakers. Hip-hop is, of course, a word- and rhythm-based artistic pursuit and can be more easily enjoyed if you speak at least one the languages. Tijoux generously interacted in Spanglish, Spanish and English at the lunchtime event. At the Motorco concert, however, the bubbly crowd traded words amongst themselves in English.
Despite the language barrier between her songs and the crowd, Tijoux had the whole room dancing and jumping and waving their hands by using English and Spanish between songs. Enjoying the irony of the situation, Tijoux moved through her set list with a vigorous attitude that suggested she was playing for hardcore Makiza
-era fans (the first rap group she headed back in the late '90s) rather than a crowd most familiar with her song "1977,"
from Breaking Bad
. She couldn't stop schooling and ribbing the crowd, urging everyone to keep being a "student" as long as they could, to question social morays and break down power structures.
Most certainly, the biggest hit of the evening was "Somos sur,"
the second track on Tijoux's latest album, Vengo
, and the last song before the encore. "Saqueo, pisoteo, colonización, Matías Catrileo, Gualmapu–¡mil veces venceremos," she sang. (That is, looting, trampling, colonization, Matías Catrileo, Gualmapu–we will overcome a thousand times!). Turning the local global, and re-educating the public about the West's current role as a colonizer, Tijoux shines most when delivering cutting lyrics with a virtuosic flow. At the same time, her sense of humor and calm allows her to hold the crowd in the palm of her hand as long as she wants. After a long day, one encore was all the audience got.
Thursday night's show proved how powerful people's interest in music can be, even if they don't understand all the words. But what further effect would it have if the crowd did? Duke Performances' challenge is to continue to expand their artist base while simultaneously expanding accessibility for the wider community. As Motorco becomes more open to posting Spanish descriptions of their events, Duke Performances might consider doing the same when they bring in Latin American performers, especially for the night club setting.
Leaving the show, I saw a large line forming to talk to Tijoux. Remembering my experience from earlier in the day, meeting with dynamic artists from all over the world just by moving from one campus to another, I was reminded what a privileged opportunity it is to be affiliated with universities–and that this privilege means working to figure out how to extend opportunities of important concerts and events to those without the same luxury.
Las cosas/a veces
Sacar la voz
Shock/Todo lo solido
Creo en ti