Chilean Artist Alex Anwandter on Art, Passion & Change
Simply put: Alex Anwandter is a trailblazer. He’s a Latinx artist who seamlessly weaves sociopolitical themes into his artistic vision. Case in point, his last album, Amiga—a deep dive into Chilean and world social issues via party beats and electro-pop. Anwandter follows a line of Latinx artists who aren’t afraid to show our flaws, our ills and the ways we can heal.
Congrats on your big wins at the Premio Pulsar! Awards are great but it’s obviously not your goal. What do you hope to attain with your music?
Thank you! And that’s a very good question. There’s something beautiful about art’s intangible nature that I don’t strive to define. However, I do appreciate very much the role music can have as a vehicle for reflection, especially regarding social issues I care deeply about and seem very urgent to me—sexism, homophobia, discrimination—to name a few.
Your Amiga album has gained awards, critical praise for its cohesion but above all its sociopolitical content. What was your mindset when creating the album?
I was trying to explore how political life affects our intimacy, and how certain violence are normalized and accepted. I found it very important to explore new strategies to renovate what’s called a “protest song;” a new aesthetic to being a dissident, if you will. I think using emotional dance pop is kind of a smart way of delivering those issues, mainly because you don’t want to bore people while discussing serious stuff; the bearded guy with an acoustic guitar whining about every single world issue is a terrible cliché. But a dance song can also be subverted into a socially conscious weapon.
Was it the same passion/drive that spurred you to direct Nunca Vas a Estar Solo?
Yes, along with the particular case that inspired the premise of the movie: a young gay boy died in a horribly violent attack—our sort of equivalent to the Matthew Shepard murder. I was also rather shocked at how superficial the media coverage was with this boy, how it tended to focus on biographical details of his life in a not-so-veiled effort to “explain” his death. That’s why I decided to make a fictional narrative about his father, as a way of saying, “it’s not the victims we should focus on but the context,” and also “it could be any other boy or girl.” It wasn’t just Daniel Zamudio [the boy's name] or Matthew Shepard. It’s an issue.
The world is going through tumultuous times to say the least. What do you think the role of arts is right now?
Indeed, to say the least. I truly believe art can be whatever it wants to be. I’m not against abstract painting or a love song. I, personally, however believe that artists should not make their lives invisible. To go up on a stage comes with a certain responsibility. So I try to stand up for something whenever I open my mouth. But I wouldn’t be all totalitarian about it and say all art has to be that way.
Latin music has historically been machista. Yet, there have been artists who have gone against the grain (Juan Gabriel, Willie Colon, etc.). What do you take, if anything, from those that came before you?
I deeply admire those artists—whether musicians or not—who’ve gone against what they perceive as unfair or arbitrarily constrictive and embodied that in their art. Juan Gabriel, Frida Kahlo and Violeta Parra for me are very important people, not just artists, role models of a sort. Nobody is perfect, neither were they, so I try to embrace their contradictions.
You’ve been very vocal about the lack of women in the music industry. It’s 2017 and there is still a disparity. What do you think needs to happen for it to change?
Well, I suppose it’s a paradigm shift that’s akin to what’s slowly happening with society. There’s questioning, there’s backlash, there’s uproar, and eventually a new consensus, I hope. When I tell people I have women members in my band, they always assume they sing backup. They’re multi-instrumentalists. Male producers are invariably given the credit for solo women artists who do much of production themselves. Music is as behind as the rest of society in that sense.
Tell me what Gay Pride means in Chile today.
To me it means youth. I have a lot of admiration for younger Chilean generations and their relation to sexuality and its diversity. Chile is an extremely conservative society, but I have so much hope just to see them.
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