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Society

From Church Choir To DJ Icon: The Singular Rise Of Anita B Queen

Daughter of conservative Korean immigrants to Argentina, portrait of rising star in Latin America's electronic music club scene who's impossible to categorize.

Photo of DJ Anita B Queen

DJ Anita B Queen mixing

Alex Zani

BUENOS AIRES — In a world that insists on labels, Ana Belén Kim, also known as Anita B Queen, considers herself a "degenerate." That is: someone impossible to classify. The 26-year-old daughter of a Catholic mother and an Evangelical father, both of whom were Korean immigrants who came to Argentina in their early childhood, her musical career began at Cheil, the First Korean Presbyterian Church in the country.

Anita was still a teenager and was surprised to see so many instruments she could use. She taught herself how to play and was soon in charge of the youth band of the church. When she turned 18, her life turned upside down as she questioned her values and her sexuality.

“Imagine, a lifelong Christian girl, growing up in a small, closed, conservative and orthodox Korean community, trying to understand what she was feeling and trying to accept herself.” That year she left the church, withdrew from her peers, separated from her boyfriend, and began dating other women.


"It was at that moment that I started working as a DJ, making electronic music, learning from local and foreign DJs who, without knowing it, were my mentors." It was a world commanded by men into which Anita stormed confidently, without asking for permission.

"It's simple," she says. "Breaking through is a matter of attitude

A male-dominated industry

Her first experiences as a DJ made her aware of a number of inequalities. “I was very young and at night there are other vices, things get mixed up, and there is always someone working hard not getting a penny.” Tired of that environment, Anita left the electro scene and began to make sets of urban, hip hop and trap music.

That is how she met Cato (Ca7riel) and Tomy (Tomás Sainz), who were looking for a band to present El Disko (Ca7riel's first solo album). One day, the DJ opened her Instagram and had a message from the singer. A little later, he invited her to join his band. “My fear came from the fact I am not a musician. So I told Cato 'I don't know what you want me to do, but whatever you need I'm going to study and learn' and he replied 'don't worry, what I need from you you already have'. He was always very empathetic with me."

So she became the only woman to be part of the band and began to tour with them. She says: “We are very similar, we don't need to explain things to each other. Although there are moments in which the lads go into silly macho mode and make a mess and shout. I put on the headphones and do my stuff. It is an amazing group. They are very far from being a band full of macho men. They respect my place and make me feel very good.”

Change in dynamics 

After several years on the music scene, Anita notices many dynamics finally changing.

“There are much more diverse lineups, events carried out by women, trans, cis, non-binary. The focus is shifting to the alternative.”

In her personal search, she tries to avoid limits or locking music into genres or labels. “I love that before a set they ask themselves 'what will Anita have planned for today?' I much better like people who are predisposed to be surprised. I want them to be my audience. I want to be with the cool ones. Sometimes, when there are five intensely enthusiastic people left at the party, I give it my all just for them.”

Photo of Anita B Queen with other musicians while in Madrid on Europe tour

Anita B Queen with other musicians on Europe Trip in Madrid

anitabqueen

A sensory experience

There are two possible ways to talk about your musical influences: the inherited influences and the chosen ones. Although Anita always believed that her family was distant from music, she recently realized that from them she inherited, albeit in a hidden way, a kind of "sound data". Her mother went to the conservatory and played the piano, and her father liked to sing a lot and played the guitar and the flute.

There are times when I still feel the resistance exerted by my body.

“Being a traditional orthodox community, it was not a plan to pursue art. I imagine that they did not bet on that due to some social mandates, like many other things that they could not question.” She also inherited a love for kimchi jjigae, her favorite Korean food.

Regarding her chosen influences, Anita highlights ARCA, a Venezuelan singer, composer, producer, and DJ based in Spain, specializing in electronic and experimental music. “Her show goes far beyond the musical — it is a sensory experience."

Gone are the days of the teenage Anita B Queen who led a marching band at church. “Now I have a lot of visibility in the LGBTQ+ community. There are times when I still feel the resistance exerted by my body. I still have that very Christian thing that is hard to get rid of, but without a doubt, this is where I want to be. We queer folks are the best things that happened to this world. No community knows as much about partying and joy as ours does.”

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Future

Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

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