Alex Anwandter Fights for LGBTQ Rights in Chile and Beyond

One of the leading names of Chile's new vibrant pop scene, Alex Anwandter combines 80's-influenced dance music and emotional song-writing in his engaging live performances, which are full of raw intimacy and showmanship. The Chilean pop star became a vocal gay rights activist after one of his fans was murdered in a homophobic hate crime. Depicting drag queens in Santiago, Chile, his music video for "Como Puedes Vivir Contigo Mismo" is "both an homage and a replica" of the documentary "Paris is Burning."

Alex Anwandter Q & A

Q. How did you get into music?

A. My dad is from Brazil and a classical guitar player, so I kind of grew up in a weird mix of Brazilian and classical musical environment. I took up violin lessons when I was 6 and soon enough everything was about music for me.

Q. Who were your biggest musical influences in developing a dance/electro-pop sound while venturing into your solo career?

A. Music-wise it's as diverse as anybody's, I guess. From Bach to Abba and (Chilean folk hero) Violeta Parra to Kraftwerk. As figures, though, role models if you wish, I always loved these giant ever-changing ambiguous personas like David Bowie, Michael Jackson, and Prince.

Q. Youth cultures and dance are a big part of your album. What themes did you draw on while producing Rebeldes?

A. Rebeldes is about nonconformance and confronting discrimination, drawing on a backdrop of heartbreak, which is kind of the whole personal aspect of the album.

Q. How has Chilean culture and politics sculpted the music you create?

A. Well, I do believe in artists reflecting their cultural context, the stories around us, so it's pretty much the basis of it. It seems almost weird to me now to think of artists purposefully ignoring harshness around them, or injustice when injustice abounds. And in Latin America and Chile, it definitely abounds.

Q. You've discussed your efforts to address sexuality discrimination by bringing light to LGBTQ issues within mainstream Chilean culture. How has this manifested in your music?

A. I suppose it manifests both aesthetically and in terms of discourse: I might mock the church and its discriminatory beliefs with a phrase like, "Even though it's a sin I feel like I'm in heaven," but it's a whole other thing to embrace and embody queer aesthetics -- and it's equally as important. I have to be myself unafraid of being perceived as feminine, effeminate, gay, or queer for it to have more power and be truthful.

Q. Your video for "Cómo Puedes Vivir Contigo Mismo" is a tribute to the film "Paris is Burning," which documents New York City's ball culture. What inspired you to create this video?

A. "Paris is Burning" is an amazing documentary, of course, but I was even more inspired by the fact that nothing remotely equivalent depicting sexual diversity existed here in Chile. I wanted to contribute, however small a contribution a music video can be, to the actual presence of diversity in mainstream media here. It was both an homage and a replica of that documentary to be inserted in my society here in Chile. It kind of worked, I think.

Q. What message do you want people around the world to take from your music?

A. I'm satisfied with getting across a message of true tolerance and equality. It sounds commonplace, yet the moment when young kids won't be bullied because they're gay or women, [and when they] are treated as equals in all aspects of society, is still very, very far away. That's the fight I want to be a part of.

We are dedicated to providing you with articles like this one. Show your support with a tax-deductible contribution to KCET. After all, public media is meant for the public. It belongs to all of us.

Keep Reading

Full Episodes