It’s an unseasonably hot June evening in Mexico City, and Argentine DJ and electronic producer Tayhana is describing what her ideal Pride celebration looks like in 2023. Instead of marching or going on an all-night bender, she’d rather host a chill bbq on the terrace outside her San Rafael recording studio, surrounded by her girlfriend and close friends and with easy access to a bathroom. The quaint plan is a far cry from her tremendous 2018 Pride showing, where she played a booming b2b set alongside Brooklyn titan TYGAPAW. That particular rager featured a distinct blend of techno, ballroom, and Brazilian batucada samples, closing out the night at Mexico City queer institution Traición, where the pair took the stage shortly after SOPHIE’s now fabled headlining set.
Tayhana’s thrilling Traición slot was nothing new for the seasoned performer, who cut her teeth for years as one of the mastheads of Buenos Aires electronic collective HiedraH and the clandestine free-for-alls that became synonymous with the city’s queer and alternative underground. HiedraH was founded in 2013 by Yban López Ratto, Nahuel Colazo, and Tayhana when all three were film students at the Escuela Nacional de Experimentación y Realización Cinematográfica. They also had zero DJing experience. But Tayhana proved a quick learner, and propelled by an ebullient spirit of resistance, Hiedrah was soon hosting buzzy guest DJs from across South America and revelers of all sexual and gender expressions.
“HiedraH is where I experimented,” says Tayhana, reminiscing on her early days behind the decks. “I was getting to know myself, trying to figure out what I wanted out of life. Plus, all the government restrictions on nightlife were exhausting. That’s what made us really underscore the importance of dancing and diversity. We weren’t buying into the discourse of equality. Instead, we embraced each other’s differences and how that led us all to the same dance floor.”
While Tayhana’s path hasn’t always been clear, her compass has consistently pointed North. Hailing from the industrial city of Caleta Olivia in the Patagonian state of Santa Cruz, it was inevitable that her love of art, film, and music would blast her to Buenos Aires. She arrived in the capital in the late 2000s, though between her studies, film work, and nightlife devotion, precarity also proved constant.
In 2015, Mexico came calling. Her collaborators at electronic collective and label NAAFI extended a sponsored invitation to come to play a massive blowout being filmed for a documentary. Intrigued and already exhausted by the incoming far-right government of Mauricio Macri, she took the leap.
“I hadn’t produced much at that point,” she remembers. “I’d only done a mixtape for NAAFI, but we shared many of the same philosophical ideas about nightlife. I also felt disillusioned with the direction Argentina was taking, so I wanted out. I had two options: either go pick fruit in New Zealand for a season or try my luck in Mexico for six months.”
Months quickly turned to years as Tayhana carved her name into Mexico City’s gargantuan nightlife landscape and the global electronic music movement. 2019 was especially fruitful as it saw the launch of her label Encuentros Furtivos, stellar performances for Boiler Room and Sónar Barcelona, and the release of her debut album Tierra del Fuego. The LP included hallmarks of her distinctly South American sound, melding mutant techno, cumbia turra from Argentina, and a broad range of organic percussion and horns that captured her ongoing love affair with Brazilian music. By the time the pandemic rolled around, Tayhana had gained some high-profile fans, including Spanish pop superstar Rosalía.
“Working on ‘CUUUUuuuuuute’ was such a beautiful surprise,” says Tayhana, reflecting on the MOTOMAMI hit that earned her a 2022 Latin Grammy. “When the NAAFI team asked for potential demos and drums for Rosalía, I went through my files and found a remix I’d done for Kelela that didn’t make it onto her record. But I still really liked that beat, so I stripped away the vocals and synths and kept most of the percussion, which eventually became the core of the song. To me, ‘CUUUUuuuuuute’ is the riskiest, most experimental song on the album, so it’s really crazy that it made the cut, and even wilder that she closes her live shows with it. It’s a huge honor, really.”
“Pride is strange. It’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes I feel like I’m whoring myself out with these activations, but I’m also aware it’s an opportunity to put my name out there. I’ll happily accept a Pride gig instead of having it go to another random straight guy.”
The success of “CUUUUuuuuuute” sent Tayhana into the stratosphere, leading to a string of performances at Primavera Sound 2022 in Barcelona, São Paulo, Buenos Aires, and Santiago. This year she took the stage at Festival Ceremonia in Mexico City, where her much-hyped Club Latinx Experience saw guest spots from rising rappers Charly Gynn, Mare Advertencia Lirika, Akasha, and drag artist Dolores Black. She is also quick to tease forthcoming collaborations with powerhouses Taichu, SixSex, and MC Livinho.
Just last month, she scored an animated short starring Kate del Castillo and Yalitza Aparicio called “Elefanta,” followed by a Brazilian tour where she played the 10th-anniversary celebration of the revolutionary Black queer party Mamba Negra. And to top it all off, Tayhana just appeared on the cover of Elle Mexico’s Pride edition alongside La Bruja de Texcoco and drag performer C-pher.
“Pride is strange,” she adds with a chuckle. “It’s a double-edged sword. Sometimes I feel like I’m whoring myself out with these activations, but I’m also aware it’s an opportunity to put my name out there. I’ll happily accept a Pride gig instead of having it go to another random straight guy [laughs].”
“When I was with HiedraH, so much was about taking up flags and making statements, but even labels are a bit meaningless to me now,” she adds. “People ask if I’m a lesbian, but I see myself as a free woman. I think that’s enough. Of course, I still support freedom and diversity. But right now, my focus is music.”