As soon as Alex Guerra and Ramon Ruiz discovered 15-year-old Yahritza Martinez on TikTok, they knew she was going to be huge. The high schooler from Yakima, Wash., had courted a massive following on social media with her incredibly powerful voice, and Ruiz and Guerra — both artists from seminal Mexican band Legado 7 and founders of the Lumbre Music label — quickly signed her. two brothers, Armando and Jairo Martinez, forming the group Yahritza y Su Esencia. Yet no one could have predicted the seismic wave caused by the group’s first single, “Soy El Unico”: in March, the moving ballad reached the top of Billboard‘s Hot Latin Songs and made Yahritza the youngest Latin artist to make the list. Billboard 100, never.
Yahritza’s story is unique in itself, but it is also part of the larger story of the impressive global expansion of música Mexicana. The category, also known as regional, is an umbrella term that encompasses banda, norteña, mariachi, grupero, etc. – all sounds that have become bigger and bigger in recent years. Headline-grabbing Coachella sets in April included performances by Sinaloan Banda MS and mega-group Grupo Firme, and in May moody band Eslabon Armado released Nostalgia, the first música Mexicana album to reach the Top 10 of the Billboard 200. At Apple Music, música Mexicana has seen double-digit growth every year since 2017, and in the first four months of 2022, it grew 33% over the same period in 2021.
Part of the popularity of música Mexicana can also be attributed to the resurgence of corridos. For over 200 years, Mexico’s most epic tales – tales of brilliant heroism, crushing betrayals, bloody battles, tragic deaths – have reached the world through these folkloric, event-based guitar ballads. real and fictitious. Last year on Spotify, corridos accounted for half of all Mexican music streams, with artists such as enigmatic singer-songwriter El Fantasma, rising talent Luis R Conriquez and cape-and-dancing duo Los Dos Carnales sword. The platform also reports that since 2019, there has been a 116% increase in viewing among Gen Z audiences; they connected, in particular, with Gen Z artists such as DannyLux, known for his softer alternative corridos, and Natanael Cano, whose speckled style attracted megastars such as Bad Bunny.
“We’re seeing a huge increase in Gen Z listening to corridos, especially when they’re supported,” says Daniel Calderon, US Latin Editorial Editor at Spotify. He notes the popularity of the Corridos Perrones and La Mamalona playlists, the latter created specifically for young people who want to blast corridos in their cars. “The younger generation feels a connection to the look and feel and the stories that new musicians are creating,” he says.
For Krystina DeLuna, Apple’s global programmer for Mexican music, the genre’s popularity is tied to geography – how its artists have always straddled two cultures. DeLuna has decades of experience and has seen music evolve over the years. A key artist, Chalino Sanchez, came to the United States in the late 70s from Sinaloa as an undocumented migrant worker and launched his music career in Los Angeles. Other legacy artists—including Los Tigres del Norte, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, and late icon Jenni Rivera—continued to popularize Mexican sounds of all genres and attract listeners navigating both cultures. “That’s what fans are: they’re listeners who don’t just live in one world,” DeLuna says.
Guerra and Ruiz, both Mexican transplants living in California, launched Legado 7 in 2015. They were inspired by the great corrido before them and wrote about a subject they knew intimately: weed. Unknowingly, they created a subgenre called corridos verdes, or “green corridos”, which became pot anthems for legions of stoner kids. “We definitely changed the game,” Ruiz says. “Honestly, we never said, ‘We’re going to do it’ – it just happened.” Their music highlighted how new generations were mixing influences all around them.
“These are all kids whose parents listened to Chalino Sanchez and Vicente Fernández, and then they went to school and listened to Jay-Z and Tupac,” says Ximena Acosta, an entertainment strategy consultant who oversees digital. marketing, advertising, brand partnerships, and more for some of the biggest names in Latin music. She saw early on how fans flocked to Mexican sounds: “The numbers were still there, and culturally, it was fascinating.” Eventually, she entered the world of Mexican music and met Legado 7. “They created their own style of music that really became a lifestyle,” she says. Today, her clients include Yahritza y Su Esencia, and she also worked with Natanael Cano early in her career.
A calm, tattooed child born in the Mexican state of Sonora, which shares a border with Arizona and New Mexico, Cano was deeply influenced by American hip-hop and Latin trap, and became the face of corridos. tumbados, a mix of traditional corridos and hip-hop beats. After the success of his 2019 “Soy Diablo” remix with Bad Bunny, he kept attracting rappers into his world: Lil Mosey, for example, made an appearance on his latest album, Natakong, released in April. Other reggaeton stars have taken notice: Late last year, Jhay Cortez hopped on Ivan Cornejo’s sad sierreño ballad “Esta Dañada”, while Karol G tested his own corrido skills on “200 Cups”.
Adriel Favela, a San Francisco-born, Mexican-raised singer-songwriter, says cross-pollination between these genres is part of what makes Mexican music ubiquitous around the world. “I’ve even seen Dominicans singing corridos lately – and they’re doped!” he says. Earlier this year he released Diablo Ribs, which bounces from corridos to banda to ranchera while embracing bold alt-pop sounds. He thinks one of the reasons these sounds resonate isn’t just about experimentation, but also about the way these genres serve as vehicles for storytelling and self-expression: “It’s like a musical journal that allows Latinos to express themselves. Ultimately, these are stories of pain, suffering, joy, hope, faith.
Still, some artists believe the industry should do more to ensure Mexican genres continue to soar to the top. Cano launched his own label, called Los CT, to support new artists and prioritize top-notch production. “The regional can be bigger,” he said rolling stone earlier this year. “It would be great if we had the best studios, the best engineers and people who work their hearts out. We’re trying to change all that with Los CT. DeLuna and other industry leaders have also championed the term “música Mexicana” rather than “regional”. “I feel like that name in general gives the impression that we’re a regional sound, and we’re not,” she says. “The goal is global.”
Kids like Yahritza, Cornejo and other breakout stars are shaping the future, especially with their fresh take on sierreño acoustic traditions that have gone viral. These newcomers, dressed in snapbacks and sneakers, have changed the way music looks, and they’re not afraid to sing along to millions of people on social media. Ruiz and Guerra remember when they were kids they were a bit shy about playing Mexican music. “I wouldn’t tell anyone that I play the accordion,” says Ruiz. “Everything is changing now. These days you see all these little kids bringing their instruments to school,” Guerra explains. “It’s cool to be a music.”