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Mexico is taking over the pop charts. What specific genre is dominating?

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

A very specific genre of music from Mexico is currently dominating the U.S. pop charts - two songs in the Top 10. And as we do with all things from the Latin music world, we called (speaking Spanish) from the Alt.Latino podcast Felix Contreras and Anamaria Sayre. Lot to unpack - where should we start, Anamaria?

ANAMARIA SAYRE, BYLINE: Well, as with any good party, I say we start it with some music.

(SOUNDBITE OF ESLABON ARMADO Y PESO PLUMA SONG, "ELLA BAILA SOLA")

SAYRE: This is a song called "Ella baila sola," and it is from two very young new artists - Eslabon Armado, which is a Mexican American band, and Peso Pluma. It's currently No. 4 on the Billboard charts. What we're talking about is a genre of Mexican music called regional Mexican, or regional. The music industry has been using this genre as a way to keep track of music from Mexico with all kinds of styles under the umbrella, like mariachi, norteno, banda, as well as the style developed in the U.S. called Tejano. Right now, the music is having an explosion like nothing before. It's hitting the global pop charts too.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ELLA BAILA SOLA")

ESLABON ARMADO Y PESO PLUMA: (Singing in Spanish)

MARTÍNEZ: So, Felix, can you break down what it is we're hearing here? It might be a new sound to some folks, but definitely not me.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: It's a combination of what is known as banda and an earlier form of guitar music that was popular along the Texas-Mexican border. Banda has its roots in Mexico going back to the middle of the 19th century. It's basically local musicians who were using the instruments of military band to create their own form of Mexican soul. Here's a clip of some early, early music. Check it out.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONTRERAS: OK, now mix that with this track from pioneering Mexican American musician Lydia Mendoza, which was recorded in 1934.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LYDIA MENDOZA: (Singing in Spanish)

CONTRERAS: Add in a dash of hip-hop swagger and performances in music videos, and you get something that's selling like hotcakes, or hot flour tortillas, if you will.

(LAUGHTER)

MARTÍNEZ: And, Ana, speaking of swag, the swaggiest of all - he decided to partner up with one of these bands.

SAYRE: Puerto Rican artist - you may have heard of him - Bad Bunny released a regional track recently. And let me tell you, the internet, specifically TikTok, went wild. Benito recorded "Un x100to" with the hot new band Grupo Frontera, and it's now at No. 5 on the charts. It blew up, like, overnight.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UN X100TO")

GRUPO FRONTERA X BAD BUNNY: (Singing in Spanish)

MARTÍNEZ: Why do you think it's happening right now?

SAYRE: It is really insane to see that the top three songs on the Billboard Global charts right now are all regional. I mean, that is completely unprecedented. And I think the Latin diaspora at large is really excited to get behind regional. It's hard to say if it's going to be here forever, but I do have a feeling we're going to have a summer of regional.

CONTRERAS: And I would add that audiences, I think, are more open to things that are new and different, despite what the suits may think in the record industry.

MARTÍNEZ: Well, let's soak it in while it's here, and hopefully it's here a while. Anamaria Sayre and Felix Contreras, co-hosts of NPR's Alt.Latino podcast, thanks a lot, you two.

CONTRERAS: Thank you.

SAYRE: Thanks, A.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UN X100TO")

GRUPO FRONTERA X BAD BUNNY: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Anamaria Artemisa Sayre is co-host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.
Felix Contreras is co-creator and host of Alt.Latino, NPR's pioneering radio show and podcast celebrating Latin music and culture since 2010.