You wouldn't know it by living in South Florida, where Urban and tropical beats dominate the Latin music landscape. But throughout the rest of the United States, many of the top-selling Spanish-language artists are actually those the industry calls "regional Mexican." It's a term that can refer to any wide number of styles, from the norteno popular in many border towns to the brassy, huge sounds of banda.
And at last week's Latin Billboard Awards, held in Miami, between flashy performances by the likes of Camila and Marc Anthony, several of these spangled, accordion-loving acts scooped up major prizes.
As the Mexican population continues to grow in the United States, regional Mexican music is only going to figure more prominently, or continue to creep into the sound of crossover artists. (Just listen to this mix by Mad Decent artist Toy Selectah we posted earlier today for a crumb of proof.) Here, in no particular order, are six artists to know.
Los Tigres Del Norte
A family band, the group first formed in the '60s by Jorge Hernandez, his brothers, and various cousins after they moved to San Jose, California from Sinaloa. Since then, various, younger Hernandezes have joined the lineup, but the group remains probably the most famous and significant of all norteño. Los Tigres have released close to 50 albums in their career, the most recent a set for MTV Unplugged. Their influence continues to loom large in regional Mexican music today.
Their 1974 song "Contrabanda y Traicion" is credited with helping to popularize the narcocorrido, an almost Homeric style of musical balladry that traces the anguish and drama caused by border-crossing drug runs. Corridos today inspire the same kind of industry hand-wringing that gangsta rap did in the states in the '80s.
Here's "Contrabanda y Traicion," as well as one for a more recent hit, 2006's "Señor Locutor," in which the subject of the song asks a radio announcer to help him find his lost immigrant relatives.
At 31 years old, Reyes is one of the younger performers credited by the industry as bringing a little youthful swagger and renewed energy to regional Mexican music. She, however, specializes in a style known as pasito duranguense, which is similar to norteño's oompah-oompah style, but is usually faster and includes more synthesizers and less tuba.
Reyes has scored three gold albums thanks to her popularity with women, especially, who like her more romantic subject matter. It's reflected in the title of her most recent album 2010's Ámame, Bésame -- "Love Me, Kiss Me." Here's the title track.
Banda El Recodo
To those who usually spend their time thinking about poppier music, the sheer appearance of Banda El Recodo is amazing -- exactly how many of them are there!? Banda Recodo is huge, which is typical of their peers in Sinaloa's banda, or big-bang, music.
The outfit boasts an 11-piece brass section -- including a tuba! -- multiple percussionists, and about three singers at any given time. Many of them are related, sharing the last name of founder Cruz Lizarraga, who started the band in its initial formation all the way back in 1938.
Here's "Me Gusta Todo De Ti," the title track from the 2009 album of the same name, which got them a number-one hit on the Billboard Latin Songs chart. After that, here's "Dime Que Me Quieres," which got them the nod for Regional Mexican Song of the Year at this year's Billboard Latin Music Awards.
El Trono de Mexico
This six-piece is one of the newer acts on the scene, having formed only in 2004. As such, the group's youthful swagger has done much for its popularity, something reflected in the slightly trendier bent of their costumes and in the more contemporary look of their music videos. Their rising popularity was signaled by their win at the Billboard Latin Music Awards for Regional Mexican Albums Artist of the Year, Duo or Group. Here's "Te Ves Fatal," from 2009.
Priscila y sus Balas de Plata
How much more badass can a band name get than Priscilla and her Silver Bullets? Not much more, especially in the mostly male-dominated world of norteño in whcih she's chosen to work. The spark for the band came when she moved with her family from Mexico City to Monterrey in 1991.
It was there that Priscila reportedly saw the beloved legendary norteño accordionist Ramon Ayala, which sparked her interest in the music. Just a few years later she recruited her brother to help her start the group, and since then, they've been credited with infusing new life into the genre.
Here's the slightly saccharine love ballad "Te Quiero Para Mi." Who thought the accordion could be made seductive?
This 28-year-old heartthrob got his musical start early, picking up his father's accordion as a child and playing around the house. As a teen, he formed the norteño group Los Buitres de Culiacan, which scored fame with its third disc, Limonadas Verdes.
But frustrated over his personal lack of artistic control, Rueda struck out on his own in 2006. Within the next year, he released his debut solo disc, Paz En Este Amor, which was considered experimental for its stripped-down horn section and relatively pare sound.
Remember, that's relatively -- Rueda's music is still full of plenty characteristic norteño flourishes. In 2011, Rueda enjoys superstardom, with the current number-one hit on Billboard's Regional Mexican Songs Chart, as well as number two on its overall Latin Songs chart. Here's that tune, "Me Encantaria."
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