From the moment the calendar pages flipped from May to June, the world was once again engulfed in the rainbow-printed festivities of LGBTQIA+ Pride Month, which celebrates queer and transgender people in the ever-expanding spectrums of gender and sexuality. While joyful, Pride is also a time of remembrance, honoring significant milestones and our fallen siblings while reminding younger generations and naysayers of the history of violent oppression the community has overcome along the way.
Heavy seasonal marketing, victories in marriage equality, and the pioneering distribution of HIV prevention drug PrEP (a.k.a Truvada) have contributed to a pronounced decline in mass activism, with many critics inside and out of the LGBTQIA+ community calling out growing complacency, largely from gay men. The truth is, while the battle for basic human rights is never over, the cultural conversation has also pivoted towards the protection and amplification of trans and gender non-conforming people, who remain the most vulnerable members of the community at large.
In the US alone, the Trump administration’s recent ban on transgender military service members has disenfranchised thousands, thinly veiling prejudice behind outlandish claims that physical and mental health expenses are far too great for the state to cover. Direct physical violence also remains a pressing threat, with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) reporting 26 transgender people suffered violent deaths in 2018, and eight more in 2019 thus far. The majority of these victims have been black trans women – a demographic disproportionately affected by hate-motivated violence – though the recent death of trans Honduran migrant Roxsana Hernández while in ICE custody also underscored the brutality and negligence prevalent within our government bodies.
In the past, Remezcla has highlighted a diverse array of queer and trans Latinx artists making inroads in diverse musical scenes around the globe, but this year we are specifically spotlighting transgender and non-binary performers pushing the boundaries of sound and visibility even further. Much has been made about acts like Arca, Manitas Nerviosas and Linn da Quebrada, so today we’re featuring vibrant new talent from the worlds of experimental music, folk, dembow and even banda.
Our annual reminder also applies: LGBTQIA+ musicians do not exist in a vacuum and need your support year round, long after the colorful and convenient embrace of Pride season.
La Bruja de Texcoco
The first time La Bruja de Texcoco came into our orbit, she was bewitching festival revelers in the jungle brush of Las Estacas Morelos as part of this year’s outstanding Carnaval de Bahidorá. The Mexican singer-songwriter released her debut EP De Brujas, Peteneras y Chachalacas back in April, adorning her stunning boleros and huapangos with guitar, violin, harp and accordion – all the arrangements of which she composed and performed. While a growing staple of the Mexico City underground, you can catch La Bruja de Texcoco performing alongside Javiera Mena, Esteman, and many more at the 41st annual Pride festivities being held at El Zócalo on June 29.
La Pajarita La Paul
With bars that flow as freely as their gender expression, La Pajarita La Paul has emerged as a refreshing new force in the Dominican dembow landscape. Early viral hits like “Deja Tu Estrés” and “Pa Que Me De Con El Bate” made the 16 year-old a favorite of dembow lovers with an eye for raw talent, while their extravagant makeup and no-fucks-given fashions have gained a sizeable Instagram following. La Pajarita is gearing up to release their debut album, and with a recent booking in El Salvador and rumors of an upcoming Mexican tour, it’s clear the bratty, effervescent traqueteo is going global.
Bolivia-born, Virginia-based producer Elysia Crampton has been making beautiful, challenging music since the beginning of the millennium. Operating under the stage name E+E until 2014, when she began releasing music under her own name, Crampton’s music is characterized by it’s philosophical nature, regularly exploring themes of colonialism, femininity, science fiction and religion. Her sonic palette is equally eclectic, colliding genres like cumbia, huayno, R&B and ambient into profound concoctions that boggle the mind and evoke emotional responses ranging from rage to silent introspection.
Gio Bravo el Transformer
Trans visibility in regional Mexican music was virtually unheard of until Gio Bravo came around, but the SoCal native has taken the genre by storm by presenting a fresh and more inclusive voice dressed in surprisingly familiar vaquero finery. His 2018 full-length debut El Comienzo is everything you might expect from a modern banda record – brimming with robust brass melodies and enough tales of love and heartbreak to script a new hit telenovela. Bravo’s cheeky moniker of El Transformer alludes to both his gender and Mexican-American identities and while he continues to release music, he is also producing a partially autobiographical 12-episode web series called Transitus.
While mainstream reggaeton continues to be virulently unwelcoming towards queer and trans artists, independent movements like neoperreo and SinVergüenza are aggressively amplifying the diversity of voices thriving in the underground. Spain’s King Jedet is one of the finest examples of an artist straddling subversive edge and mainstream potential, evidenced by the sleek and uncompromising sharpness of their debut album La Leona. High profile crossovers with La Favi, Ms. Nina and production powerhouse Beauty Brain have raised eyebrows and sparked much culo shaking, but it’s King Jedet’s own raw talent that has positioned them as a reggaeton star to watch.
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Chicago-based producer and DJ Ariel Zetina is rapidly becoming a rising star of the US club universe. Her debut EP Organism dropped in February, presenting an unflinching document on trans existence and survival via tracks like “Establish Yourself In My Body” and “Putamaria.” The record is loaded with unrelenting techno, ethereal vocals and even a few rhythmic allusions to ballroom, which earned her co-signs from Pitchfork and Resident Advisor. Zetina has been sparking dance floor catharsis for years, and now as part of the Discwoman collective you’ll be able to enjoy her electronic ruminations in a city near you.
While much of the international gaze tends to pool over Santiago, there is a great wealth of creative perspectives blossoming in every corner of Chile. Maxwell Morales is a young producer based in Concepción – the capital city of the southern Biobío region – using guitar and a bevy of pedal effects to create short but gripping sonic diatribes. Though his discography is still small, last year’s Anxiety EP signaled an exciting willingness to experiment, with tracks like “Worry Because I Chill” and “Abyss of Hope” exploring the depths of Morales’ emotional world in elegant new ways.
A vibrant wave of trans artists is emerging out of the Mexican underground and Luisa Almaguer is leading the charge with a unique blend of folk vocals and ghostly, immersive production. She released her cathartic first EP Miljillo in 2016, channeling the frustrations and disappointments she experienced during the early stages of her transition, facing romantic heartbreak and family rejection. Earlier this year, Almaguer dropped her sublime full-length debut MATARONOMATAR, which embraces a multitude of guitars and showcases her hypnotic vocals and devastatingly honest songwriting. Beyond music, Almaguer is also the writer of transfeminist sex-education project La Virgen del Sexo and host of La Hora Trans podcast on Puentes Mx.
Sasha Sathya is a beatmaker, songwriter and MC making a necessary splash in Argentina’s reggaeton and trap underground. Her excellent ReBeba MiXXXtape dropped back on Valentines Day, – a love letter to perreo lovers with a preference for safe and inclusive nightclub bedlam. But don’t be fooled by the deceptively syrupy synths of bops like “Wacha” and “Las Flawers,” Sathya’s highly conscientious tracks are loaded with pressing social issues including sex work, gendered violence and affordable mental health access.
Queer and trans femmes are all over the Brazilian charts, with artists like Pabllo Vittar, Liniker e os Caramelows and Linn da Quebrada emerging as critical darlings of the international stage. With Pepita we are treated to the campier side of Brazilian pop, where alongside MC Trans and Gloria Groove, regional rhythms like baile funk and brega are serving as vehicles for a rainbow intervention of the mainstream.
Fran Straube has long been a standout of Chile’s storied indie scene, first as vocalist and drummer for beloved alt-rock trio Miss Garrison and now as forward thinking electro experimentalist Rubio. Percussion is the connective tissue in all of Straube’s projects, whether acoustic or digitally achieved, and a distinct visual style has emerged by invoking mysticism and folkloric references for every new video and performance. Beyond music, Straube is also highly sought for their modeling chops. Earlier this year, they were part of a highly publicized H&M campaign for a new non-binary clothing line, which featured several fellow indie stars including Gianluca and Playa Gotica’s Fanny Leona.