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Houston-based EZ Band benefits from the success of Regional Mexican music

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

It's been a historic year for regional Mexican music. Two regional Mexican songs cracked the top 10 of the Billboard's Hot 100 for the first time ever. Music critics are calling it the genre's commercial breakthrough. That's great news for the Houston, Texas-based EZ Band. NPR's Isabella Gomez Sarmiento has this report.

ISABELLA GOMEZ SARMIENTO, BYLINE: Jaime Guevara grew up in a family of musicians. His dad played in a norteño band. As a teenager, Guevara started mixing that tradition with the pop songs he heard on the radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY THERE DELILAH")

EZ BAND: (Singing) Hey there, Delilah. What's it like in New York City?

JAIME GUEVARA: I've been doing this for quite a while. It's not my first rodeo.

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: But his covers, which include accordion-filled arrangements and half-Spanish, half-English lyrics, didn't take off until he started posting them on TikTok.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEY THERE DELILAH")

EZ BAND: (Singing in Spanish).

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: This year, EZ Band, which includes his dad and brother, released an album of covers, "Make It Norteno Vol. 1." As international audiences are getting more familiar with regional Mexican, Guevara thinks maybe EZ Band is kind of doing the reverse, introducing rock artists like The Strokes and the Smiths to Latin music fans.

GUEVARA: I think we are exposing some of that music to new audiences. And it's also, in a way, bringing cultures together.

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: Several of his bandmates, he says, had never heard this song before they played it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THIS CHARMING MAN")

EZ BAND: (Singing) Punctured bicycle on a hillside, desolate.

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: But the result, Guevara says, is beautiful. At a recent show...

GUEVARA: I saw a lot of American people, a lot of white people and a lot of Mexican people together singing, dancing. So that brings me a lot of joy.

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: And Guevara enjoys modernizing his family's traditions.

GUEVARA: Obviously, my dad wouldn't have played anything we're playing at the moment back in the day, you know? That was, like, completely out of the question for him.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLANK SPACE")

EZ BAND: (Singing) Oh, my God. (Singing in Spanish).

GOMEZ SARMIENTO: EZ Band is hoping to release a new album next year.

Isabella Gomez Sarmiento, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BLANK SPACE")

EZ BAND: (Singing in Spanish). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Isabella Gomez Sarmiento is a production assistant with Weekend Edition.

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