Vanessa Pires, aka Chong Kwong, is a 31-year-old rapper born in Cova da Moura with Chinese, Cape Verdean, Mozambican and Timorese blood. She will perform at Nos Alive
She lived for some years in Macau and Hong Kong. She has released two singles from a solo project called "Chong Kwong" and "Não te Convidei", the first of an album under construction that will be called "Filha da Mãe". The Afro-Asian rapper will perform at the Nos Alive festival on July 12. Chong Kwong has already felt racism, also from Africans and Asians who do not deal well with her condition of "black asian". In rap she found her tribe and it is in music that she expresses her multicultural diversity: " Discoveries yeah". Music is in her bones, from the African rhythms to Michael Jackson or Stevie Wonder that she listened with her parents. "There was a lack of food in my house, but there was never any lack of music."
Plataforma - Your origins are very important in music. You have Chinese, Cape Verdean, Mozambican and Timorese blood. Can you explain a little better where these origins come from?
Vanessa Pires - I was born in Portugal but my father is Cape Verdean, my mother is Mozambican, my grandparents are Chinese and my other grandfather is Timorese. It's the " Discoveries yeah" (laughs).
Plataforma - And in what ways do these mixtures influence the music you make?
They influence a lot. I was born in Cova da Moura, I lived in Damaia and Cacém and at home I always heard a lot of African music and everything associated with African music, food, dance wheels and animation. I even say that my tempo in rap comes a little bit from the African music, the rhythm. In this first solo project I wanted to highlight this blasian part, to show a bit of my influences, to bring that difference to the light. Different things. I know how to rime, but I also like the African rhythms, the Asian classy vibe .
Is it present in your music and in your attitude?
I think so.
You were in the "La Dupla" band between 2003 and 2011 and then took an eight-year break to study. You lived in Macau and Hong Kong. How was it?
I lived more in Macau than in Hong Kong. I also wanted to get to know Timor. I have not been to Africa yet. I went to Asia, where my mother's origins are: Macau, Guangzhou and Timor. I wanted to see new influences, I always lived with it at home, but I did not really know what it was. It was fun to have that experience there although, obviously, there I am not Chinese and I am not...
Yeah. It's a mix.
How do people see you in Macau... since you are not Chinese and they do not define you as Portuguese?
My life has always been like this. I remember that my grandfather used to tell me something when I was young: you, with your color, your eyes, your hair, you will always realize that you do not belong anywhere and you have to find your tribe or else create your own tribe. I really felt this, in school there were not many reference models. Rap was in fact my first tribe.
What did you find in the East that was so important to music?
The musical production, no doubt. It took me a long time to find the right tone to create these vibes, an African touch and an Asian touch. The two videos that I created show that, visually, I was in the East.
They are very bold, are they not?
Yes, but with a certain class. Bold, but then there's that "ahah" thing. Lots of fantasy. It was like a door.
How did you end up in rap? With African friends from Cova da Moura?
That was when I was still living in Cacém and between leaving Cacém and going to live in Barreiro I began to listen to music, to write, to record. I started to create rhymes at age of 14. Also my family context, here at home I was not supposed to express myself. I had many problems at home and rap was an escape and a way of expressing myself and verbalizing what I felt without repercussions.
In your music you convey a message of power, of a strong, independent woman. Is that what you want to convey?
I think that also depends a lot on your attitude, the way you look at life, it transposes into the art you create. It's important to convey the message that you can make it happen if you want. But I do not think much about this distinction between man and woman. I'm not a woman who wants to empower women. Through my art I want people to be inspired.
But what else do you want to get across in what you write?
Did you ever feel racism in the way you were approached?
Of course, yes. For example, I have straight hair and curly hair. If I use the dryer it becomes straight. If I went out with curly hair I would hear, "Go to your homeland." If I went out with straight hair, they would send me to Pakistan (laughs). Things like this... you know... obviously I also felt racism of Asians and Africans, like, you're not really Asian, you're not really African. I realized that I am a bit like a strange element and these mixtures that today are very welcome, at the time they were not. But I always try not to overemphasize this aspect, because people are always afraid of the unknown, of that which is different.
Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder are some of your musical influences. Did you hear them at home?
My father wanted to be like Michael Jackson (laughs), from his hairstyles to the posters that he had. My father was very attached to African music, some artists went there, my uncle also had a publishing house. All the hits of the moment and even the songs that had not come out were already in my house. There was a lot of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Bob Marley. In my home sometimes there was a lack of food, but there was never any lack of music. I had about 30,000 otitis because our sound system really pumped! (Laughs)
Did you ever think about transporting this musical heritage from Cape Verde and Mozambique to your music?
Absolutely. I have now released these two singles "Chong Kwong" and "Não te convidei". I'm building an album that will be called "Filha da Mãe" and there are other songs that have not yet come out with R&B rhythms, others with a more afro style, I want to play ding ding ding in all the influences I had.
Regarding food, are you also multicultural?
Oh yes. At home, one can eat from Cape Verde's cachupa to Portuguese cod at Christmas.