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Mexican music is exploding with rising artists like Kenia OS

Music Sin Fronteras 1.22.23

At the recent FMPRO music conference in Guadalajara, Spotify was all over the place. There were teams of Spotify executives, techies, music supervisors, and scouts virtually everywhere. There were lectures, speeches, workshops, and many, many meetings off in the corners and around the bar.

So, what gives? What is a Swedish music company with 456 million listeners and revenues of $12 billion US doing blanketing a small Mexican/Latin music conference? Well, there is a good reason and it starts with artists like Kenia OS. So put on her latest album, K23, and prepare to be amazed.

First, if you have not visited Mexico, it is NOT a developing country. With a population of 126.7 million (2021)  and a gross domestic product of  $1.273 trillion USD  the same year, Mexico is the 15th largest economy in the world.  The Economist estimates that 40% -45% of Mexicans are middle class, and they spend money on music – $815 millionUS in 2021 on streams, purchases and concerts.

Spotify is all over Mexican bands  because of those numbers and this one: 56% per year. That is the growth of Spotify streams in Mexico every year since 2019. Other  platforms report similar growth — Mexico now accounts for 5.6 billion streams per year.

Behind this growth is an unbelievable music culture. Nothing happens in Mexico without music – nothing. Combined with this music prevalence is the huge diversity of Mexican music: banda,, frontera, flamenco, norteño, Duranguese, corrídors, Chicano rock, boleros, Son Jarocho, Grupera, Mariachi, Tejaño, Mexican cumbia, conjunto , post rock, and on and on.  And virtually all Mexican musicians know several of these genres and they mix and match, not only Mexican genres, but world genres too. Mariachi rock? – we got it. Banda pop, yep it’s here. An accordion-led rock band. Sure, right after the violin-led rock band.

And Mexican artists are collaboration-fiends. Spotify streamed over 31,000 collaborations between Mexican artists and international bands last year. This blending of Mexican and other kinds of music from other countries makes it internationally appealing – 66 million Spotify listeners discovered Mexican music last year– an amazing number for any genre. Mexico’s #1 market is, of course Mexico, but its #2 market is the US, where Mexican music is now the #3 music import. And Mexican music is seeping through the music world in the US like rap did in the 80s and 90’s.  An example is the 500 high schools in the US that now have mariachi bands and are creating a new generation of Mariachi musicians who even tour in Mexico.

Part of this popularity is that Mexico is turning out a new generation of artists that grew up with both traditional and current music and are mixing and matching them in new and unique ways.  The Mexican artist Christian Nodal pushed the genre envelope hard and transformed the popular music scene in Mexico; he is now pushing it out into the international market. Nodal and rising Mexican and Mexican-American artists can draw on their regional musical roots and   popular genres like hip-hop to create new genres and sub genres in Spanish and English that draw Gen Z audiences from around the world. This is especially true for corídos (popular ballads) and sierreño (mountain music played on the 12-string guitar).  These artists are mixing urban beats with  bucolic regional genres to create hooks and melodies that are addictive- and immensely popular. Popular.

Which brings me to Kenia OS (Kenia Guadalupe Flores Osuna ) from Mazaltan, one of the rising stars in the Mexican music firmament. Only 24 yeas old, she became a global internet celebrity  at 15, publishing vlogs on YouTube, then moving to music with a contract with  Lizos  Records and an  EP . In  2021, she signed a contract with Sony Music Mexico  and following year released  “La noche”   and  two studio albums Cambios de luna and K23 .  To date her songs have streamed over 150 million times.

If the direction of Mexican pop music interests you (I hope by now it does), take a listen to K23, especially the songs “Flores” and “La Invitacion” and hear how she creates sophisticated, beats tracking  an  understated voice that ranges from urgent to seductive and stands out among the bombast found in a lot of  hip hop. This is very sophisticated music – the kind that is coming out of Mexico today.

Patrick O’Heffernan

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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (413 Articles)
Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist based in Mexico, with a global following. He focuses on music in English and Spanish that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America, especially Mexico like cumbia, banda, son jarocho, and mariachi. He is also edits a local news website and is a subeditor of a local Spanish language newspaper. Check out his weekly column Music Sin Frontera on Sunday nights.

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