Ivanna and Diego’s wedding was a lovely ordeal. When the night began, we found ourselves in the Margarita Xirgu Theatre in all its nineteenth-century splendour, waiting for the stars of the night to walk through the doors and make their way to the stage. As the guest artists sang a tune about love written by Ivana and Diego themselves, the bride made a her appearance, looking ravishing in white, and the groom looked as dapper as ever. Or is it the other way around? Lines tend to get beautifully blurred when these two are involved. In any case, Diego definitely looks good in a dress, and Ivanna can pull off a clean shaven head and a moustache. And really, that’s all that actually matters.
This scene goes a long way to describe Bife, the queer band Ivanna Colonna Olsen and Diego Fantin formed, but it’s hard to put the real essence of their work into words. As they said themselves, “we find it difficult to define ourselves, precisely because we feel that short and quick definitions are limiting because all they do is refer to stereotypes that we all understand differently.” In this sense, Bife is very coherent: they don’t define themselves in terms of either gender or genre. Their songs are varied and include tangos, cumbias, jazz, bossanova, punk, pop, reggae and folk. “What we mean to do is light, cheerful and feminist music, one that is fun to dance to but also dissident, sensitive and erotic. That’s what we mean to do, but we don’t know if we pull it off.”
We can answer that: they definitely pull it off. Three weeks after they started playing together back in 2014, they had already recorded their first album, Con Amor, mostly composed of tangos and cumbias. Their shows would have the audience swooning to tangos like “Con tu amigo” and “Enamoradísimxs” only to have them dancing fiercely later to hits like “La mondiola”, “Irene” and “Ahora querés más” just a few minutes later. Their songs told stories of fateful threesomes, anthems for open relationships and love tunes to the mondiola.
“After we recorded our first album, we started playing a lot more often and soon we had a lot of new songs”, they told The Bubble. “We didn’t have time to think about arrangements, much less record them. Finally, we had to stop everything and record because we had thirty songs already. It’s not convenient to wait for so long before recording.” In any case, their newest album Toda now has a total of twenty five songs combining all sorts of genres precisely because they waited two years in between albums, which is a delightful amount of Bife for those of us who have been waiting patiently since we first fell in love with Con Amor. From Toda, the tangos “Buenos Aires” and “Sin Luz”, which all victims of local electric company Edenor will be able to relate to, are standouts.
The wedding at Margarita Xigru was none other than the album presentation, where they put on a terrific show: forty guest artists, dancers, costume changes, and even a carnival with masks and other decorations. “It was a huge party and we were thrilled with it”, said the happy couple.
But their music, as erotic and even funny as it is, can make an audience stop and reflect about more than one social standard. “Con tu amigo” is not only about open relationships, but attacks the idea that monogamy is only the viable way of approaching relationships through examining it as a social construct instead of some kind of universal truth. “Paparulo” becomes more special when we hear the prologue performed live at the show, turning the plotline from the famous tango “Amablemente”, where a man walks in on his wife and another man, lets the lover go and stabs her, into a song advocating for threesomes. From the new record, “El piropo” has to be the best response to catcalling out there, and doesn’t let President Macri off the hook for his unfortunate comments on the subject back in 2014. “Rosa Rosa” is a cumbia defending women’s right to legal abortion, and “Lactoabúmina” is a clever response to Jorge Lanata’s ignorant statements on transexuality, where Bife takes the chance to celebrate diversity as the best way we have to fight against policies promoting inequality.
“Songs can change something as long as they create content, incite reflexions and bring different emotional perspectives forward that can be shared and can, therefore move people”, said Bife when asked about the political power of music. “We feel like cultural production is one of the most important tools at everyone’s disposal to spread their ideals.” Ivanna and Diego clearly use this tool well.
This talented duo can be found on Facebook. There are six new music videos coming out this year via their YouTube channel, two tours around the country, concerts in Buenos Aires, a surprise album coming out in spring and a tour around Patagonia in January, as well as a few secrets they just wouldn’t spill. We will all have to wait and see what they come up with next.