Growing up in Washington’s Yakima Valley, a fruit-growing agricultural region dotted with small towns and apple orchards, Yahritza Martínez and her four siblings were surrounded by Mexican music. Latinos make up more than half of Yakima County’s population, and many of them are migrants from Mexico’s western state of Michoacán, where Yahritza’s parents are from. Her father and her uncles played in a band, and her oldest brother, Armando or “Mando,” now 24, joined when he was about 10. Yahritza would always sing around the house: “She’d even sing her ABCs with so much feeling,” Yahritza’s older sister Adriana remembers with a laugh. But there’s one day that everyone in the family remembers: Mando was practicing songs on his keyboard when suddenly, everyone heard a big, impressive voice jumping in to join him.
“Out of nowhere, I hear this crazy high pitch, and I’m like, ‘What the heck?'” Adriana remembers. “I open the door and it’s Yahritza, singing a straight-up ranchera.” Her little sister was only about five years old at the time, belting out “No Se Vivir,” a weepy, lovelorn hit by Los Canarios de Michoacán. Over time, Yahritza teamed up with Mando more and more, matching her pitch to his keyboard. They’d play at family parties, and she’d sing everything from Tierra Caliente, a riff-heavy style that originated in Mexico in the Eighties, to kids’ classics from Mexico’s El Morro franchise — all sounds that constantly wafted through the home.
It’s from that same home that Yahritza started uploading videos to TikTok when she was about 14. She’d taught herself to play guitar, and began building a fan base with her covers of contemporary sounds, including songs by Mexican acts like Calibre 50 and Ed Maverick, who have become huge in recent years. Then one night, she and her brother Jairo, who plays bajolochea, a bass guitar common in corridos, decided to try their own version of “Esta Dañada,” a sullen acoustic track by the 17-year-old artist Ivan Cornejo that went completely viral in 2021. Within hours, their cover exploded, too.
“It blew up overnight,” Yahritza remembers. “I was getting so much attention from really big artists, and it inspired me to do more.” Mando had picked up the requinto, a smaller version of a classical guitar that’s popular in Mexico, and the siblings began brainstorming more songs. Pretty soon, they were getting regular attention from label execs and A&R figures, who’d leave comments throughout their social media accounts. Nothing clicked until they heard from Ramón Ruiz and Alex Guerra, two musicians from the group Legado 7 who created the label Lumbre Music.
Mexican genres have seen massive global gains over the last couple of years, becoming one of the fastest-growing segments in Latin music. Regional — a catch-all term for genres that include corridos, norteño, banda, and more — has found an audience on TikTok and inspired reggaeton artists like Karol G, Bad Bunny, and Jhay Cortez to experiment with these sounds. Now, with the backing of Lumbre Music, Yahritza and her siblings are at the forefront of what’s happening: They’re leveraging their TikTok popularity and calling themselves Yahritza Y Su Esencia, sliding easily into a new generation of young artists who are taking Mexican music to surprising heights.
Yahritza Y Su Esencia are bringing something specifically new to the scene: Apart from the late icon Jenni Rivera, these genres have been traditionally male-led and hyper-masculine. While her brothers’ instrumentation taps into a striking, modern moodiness that’s in the zeitgeist right now, Yahritza’s voice feels unique among the panoply of freshly signed male artists — and it’s a sound strong enough to cause a seismic quake throughout the industry.
Ruiz says he recognized the group’s star power instantly. “I was scrolling through TikTok and came across a video from them,” he tells Rolling Stone. “I was blown away by their talent immediately. We spoke to them and flew to Yakima right away to sign them.” Guerra adds that Yahritza’s vocal ability was completely different to what he’s seen in the Mexican market right now. “I felt something I never felt before while listening to someone’s voice,” he says.
It might sound like an exaggeration, but the emotion in Yahritza’s voice is something people talk about constantly. “People say it gives them shivers,” Jairo says. It’s also part of what makes the band’s first single, “Soy El Unico,” such a standout. The song is the pure embodiment of young heartbreak, tender, pulverizing, and full of earnestness.
Shockingly, it’s the first song Yahritza ever wrote when she was 14. She’d been carefully inspecting the sadness she had gravitated toward in music like Cornejo’s, and she decided to try writing a song of her own with that mood. She says she specifically wrote from a male perspective, channeling a break-up she’d seen her brother go through. Her brother Jairo loved it and suggested they show it to Mando.
“When I first heard her singing it, I was like, ‘Oh she’s singing a cover,'” Mando says. “Then when she shared it with me, I was like, ‘That’s your song?'”
The three of them refined certain details, with Mando going in with a 12-string guitar. The track quickly became the centerpiece of a four-song EP they’re working on that tells the story of a relationship, from beginning to end, through two covers and two original songs. It’s just a hint of all the songs living inside Yahritza. “All the songs she’s written, I’m like, ‘Bro, how does she do that? How does all this go through your mind?'” Mando says.
Though they’re just getting their start in the industry, they’ve already found unexpected fans around them. Jaime Aquino, a film director who has worked with major reggaeton artists such as Tainy and Lunay, was called in to direct the forthcoming video for “Soy El Unico.” He’d already knew Yahritza from TikTok and had become a big supporter. “I’d sent my brother and friends her videos and kept a close eye everything she was doing,” he says. “The minute we met, I knew they were stars.”
Yahritza and Jairo are still balancing budding fame with being kids. They’re both students at A.C. Davis High School, which lists the famed writer Raymond Carver and the singer Oleta Adams among its alumni. Yahritza is usually pretty low-key in hr signature baseball caps and baggy clothes, but people have already started to notice the buzz around her. One of her teachers actually pulled her aside and told her he’d become a huge fan after discovering her TikTok.
The big goal for all the Martínez siblings is to be able to help out their parents. Their mother is a stay-at-home parent and their father works in the fields, and they list both of them as major musical influences. Yahritza says her mom has been shy about singing, but has a voice she’s emulated. She also drew inspiration from watching her dad perform with his band over the years
She has other aspirations, too: “My dream right now is to go on tour,” she says. “I want to see what it’s like.” she says. Right now, the course she can chart is wide open.