When a bunch of Argentinian and Mexican women from various queercore and feminist punk bands decide to get together to form a supergroup sensation, you know the results will be a force to be reckoned with. What you maybe didn’t see coming were the Madonna covers.
But that’s what’s so sweet about the Kumbia Queers - they combine the fearlessness and energy of punk rock with the infectious bubbliciousness of pop music. Oh, and they’re also really gay. If the name Kumbia Queers didn’t give that away already.
Cumbia is a traditional form of Latin American music that’s somewhere between folk and popular; in the context of this band it seems to refer less to a specific kind of music than to the idea of “popular music” itself, the sort of tunes that are unavoidably cheesy, kind of lowbrow, and completely irresistible. Which might also seem like a pretty apt description of the Kumbia Queers, except there’s something sophisticated and complex about the way they flip a traditionally masculine genre of music on its head, making it both female and queer.
The video for Chica de Calendario (“Calendar Girl”) is a lezzie take on the old standard of the song written to the babely object of desire:
When I Googled “chica de calendario”, one of the first things I got was this: a painting of a nude woman with her back turned and her hands demurely covering her crotch, while three skinny men who are like half her size snap photos with cameras that look like giant eyeballs. This is the kind of image of beautiful women we’re used to seeing, and it’s maybe what the Kumbia Queers are responding to in this video. But mixed in with the satire is a genuine appreciation and fondness for the titular Girl, plus she seems to be having a good time too. Well, wouldn’t you?
So, you could think about the reappropriation of the male gaze by queer women and what that does to the idea of “checking out”, or you could consider the various kinds of femininity on display in the video and how they exist alongside rather than in opposition to each other. Or you could just, you know, get their cover of La Isla Bonita stuck in your head for the next twelve years. I like a band that gives you options.
Read an interview with the Kumbia Queers in Macha Mexico: A Lesbian Guide to Mexico City.