Chocolate Remix: the lesbian reggaeton artist taking on Argentina’s ‘supermachos’

Reggaeton is almost as famous for its dodgy lyrics as its dancehall rhythm. But in Argentina, one female is busting sexual taboo and outswaggering the men

The founding fathers of the testosterone-fuelled Latin pop genre reggaeton would probably be surprised to hear their penis described as dispensable. But this is the message from Chocolate Remix, a tiny Argentinian female in a big cap taking aim at the supermachos in her single, Lo Que Las Mujeres Quieren. Hey macho reggaeton man, listen to what I say/ You dont is familiar with females/ A girl opts two well-placed fingers.

This is lesbian reggaeton, and Choco, its swaggering innovator, is one of a rising number of female reggaetoneras changing the male-dominated genre from within. An established talent in Buenos Aires alternative scene, Choco maintains reggaetons defining dembow rhythmand perreo ( the doggy-style grinding dance culture) but uses the lyrics to satirise machismo and bust the taboo of female pleasure and lesbian sexuality. She also revisits reggaetons homophobic roots and rewrites the anthems for a fag audience.

Choco might be a badass on stage but at home she is Romina Bernardo, a softly spoken 31 -year-old former IT programmer from Argentinas small north-eastern province of Tucumn. She now lives in Buenos Aires with her two cats. Between careful sips of mat( a green tea beloved in the southern cone ), Choco explains how she loved reggaeton when it arrived in the clubs in the 00 s, a decade after it came out of the barrios of Puerto Rico where underground artists first fused Jamaican dancehall rhythms with Spanish lyrics. Yet she disliked the lyrics. In reggaeton, a lot of songs talk about sexuality. I thought it would be great to use it to talk about other kinds of sex, she says, adding: Lesbian reggaeton was a kind of joke.

Chocolate
Chocolate Remix( centre) performing live. Photograph: Victoria Schwindt

But the joke soon became serious. Choco started producing and uploading her anthems in 2013, but with new album, Stira( Satire ), released in March, as well as a forthcoming European tour, its now a full-time task. The albums title alludes to the randy figure of Greek mythology, while its encompas depicts Choco in a wedding dress with chocolate smeared over her throat. The notion is to present something that generates confusion, she says, simulating a shocked face. Are you a lesbian? Oh my God, is that chocolate? Stira comprises seven ways most of which have a heavy dosage of reggaetons signature tinny percussion and synth-led melodies, over which Choco raps in cloudbursts of staccato and sometimes squeaky Spanish.

In the video for Cmo Me Gusta a Mi( How I Like It) Choco trills merrily I like cheaters/ I like ugly girls as the camera pans over a neverending bed of naked women in various stages of copulation. Sexual and political liberation are two sides of the same coin: I like the empowered woman/ But I like it even better if she eats this empanada .( In Spanish, empowered empoderada rhymes neatly with empanada , a type of Argentinian pasty and lingo for female genitalia .)

There was, however, a backlash from women who said her explicit videos and songs, just like those of male artists, were objectifying women. It was a sensitive subject at the time. If you find a women in mini-shorts people were like Argh! Thats machismo, explains Choco. I said, its great we are analysing this stuff, but what we are doing is putting more taboo on sex. She also bumped up against an element of classism reggaeton is grounded in street culture and is often written off as vulgar. The notion of progress for middle-class Argentinians is that that you shouldnt be a bitch, you should be intellectual and go to university, she says.

What is radical in Cmo Me Gusta a Mi is not the nudity but the novelty of a reggaeton video full of women enjoying themselves , no man in sight. In the 25 years since reggaetons inception, girls have usually only been present in half-naked, decorative form, emitting only the odd sigh of Ay papi . In 2012, the Cuban government even tried to ban it from the airwaves for painting females as grotesque sexual objects( predictably, this only succeeded in increasing its popularity) and last year the misogynistic lyrics in Colombian megastar Malumas song Cuatro Babys led to a petition for him to pull the song.

Female reggaeton artists have always struggled for visibility. A notable exception is Ivy Queen, whose 2003 made Quiero Bailar defended womens freedom on the dancefloor. She paved the route for todays generation of female DIY reggaeton artists such as Argentinian Ms Nina los Santos, Chilean Tomasa del Real and San Franciscan balladeer La Favi, who are building their own fanbases on SoundCloud and YouTube. Choco identifies these artists, along with Catalan Bad Gyal, the rising Colombian superstar Farina and the Madrid-based group Tremenda Jaura, as part of a feminist new wave, though they themselves may not use the label. I guess its a mini-movement, she says. Currently reggaeton is the most popular music at all the feminist parties.

Explicit content : Chocolate Remix performs Lo Que Las Mujeres Quieren( What Women Want)

Chocolate Remix tackles homophobia and gender violence. Reggaetons homophobic roots stem from Shabba Rankss 1991 song Dem Bow( entailing theyre lesbian ), which was the first track to use the unmistakable drum rhythm that became reggaetons backbone. I took this song and I remade it to say Im bent and Im proud, Choco explains. Ni Una Menos( Not one less) was written for Argentinas feminist warriors and takes its name from the banner under which they took to the streets in October 2016 to protest at the countrys shocking rate of hate crimes against girls. Over a thumping cajn drum, the lyrics If she paints her lips/ Dances to reggaeton/ Leaves you for another are punctuated by chants of ni una meno s. It is a tribal call to arms. Choco is quick to point out that their own problems is not specific to Latin America. When she worked in Europe, in IT, the gender imbalance among colleagues was striking: We sometimes guess machoism is only opposing with your wife, she says, but there are a lot of things that no one sees.

Despite sticking two well-placed thumbs up at the reggaeton establishment, Chocolate remains a huge fan of the genres megastars such as Daddy Yankee. Hes not the bad guy, she says, he is just responding to the macho culture. Would she be his support act? Of course! But right now I dont believe my music is interesting to his audience. Im presenting an alternative but Im also saying fuck you. She imagines the concert: Im there shouting, Your dick is not important Maybe with some years of talking and with some help from psychologists, they could accept it.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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