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Nando Chang Explores Peruvian Roots Through Music and Food

When someone once asked Nando Chang if he was into Tupac, the Peruvian American hip-hop fan thought the reference was to Tupac Amaru, a legendary Incan warrior.

In fact, Tupac Shakur was named after another Peruvian revolutionary, also named Tupac Amaru. At the time, though, Chang, newly living in the United States but born in Chiclayo, Peru into a family with indigenous as well as Chinese heritage, didn’t know that. So he went went deep into Shakur’s catalog and it soon became not only a gateway to a second language but also a way to channel his 14 year old teenage angst.

In Peru, Chang had been a big fan of Argentine rockers Soda Estereo and their front man/songwriter Gustavo Cerati. But after his introduction to hip-hop here in the U.S., things changed.

“At that point I [had] only heard Latin rock, and I loved the way Gustavo Cerati wrote his lyrics, but when I got into hip-hop I understood that the mission of an MC was more than just writing lyrics and then rap music became everything to me,” he said in a statement released with his new album, Cholito Samurai, which will be released on May 18.

The new single from the album, “Corre,” is a visual and lyrical exploration of fast paced life of working people, perhaps inspired by life in a kitchen. As a child in Peru, his first job was at a restaurant and his interest in food also became a part of his artistic vision.

Nando Chang has also become a restaurant owner in Miami’s Design District where his menu is a delicious exploration of Japanese cuisine on traditional Peruvian dishes.

“Food is – along with music – the best way I’ve found to fully express what I am as a Peruvian, as an American, and as an immigrant. Also, having the experience as a restaurant entrepreneur has taught me that you should own your thing, being financially independent and stable, and having the discipline to achieve what you set out. If someone is putting the money for your restaurant then they will own your menu, and something similar happens with your music.”