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Hispanic Heritage Month spotlight: Lesly Reynaga

A person with a guitar sings into a microphone with two people holding guitars behind her
Michael Minasi
Lesly Reynaga performs in the KUTX studio on Thursday.

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With the release of her debut album Valerosa, Lesly Reynaga is fusing together the best parts of the musical worlds she was raised on. A majority of the 12 songs on the album are sung in Spanish, but there’s still a tinge of the American pop music that was the soundtrack of her early years.

Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Reynaga moved to Texas at 16, leaving behind her mother and siblings to join her father in McAllen. It was there that she began to spread her musical wings, taking an elective guitar class and following a path that eventually led her to the music that encompassed her childhood.

Mariachi music had been in her world, but it wasn’t the rhythm driving her forward. That energy was reserved for the pop stylings that dominated the last decade of the 20th century.

“I was young and growing up in the '90s. You obviously gravitate to what’s cool and hip,” she told KUTX. “I had an older sister [who] listened to a lot of American pop music. Christina Aguilera was literally my biggest idol when I was a little kid.”

She began to flourish musically when her guitar teacher asked a simple question: Can you sing? He just so happened to be the director of the school’s mariachi group, and it was then that Reynaga began to explore the intricacies of the musical style.

Reynaga cites Linda Ronstadt as one of her biggest influences, particularly her 1987 album Canciones de Mi Padre. The album, chock full of mariachi classics, was an influential album for many folks (my mom included) who had grown up on Ronstadt’s English songs.

After two EPs — Fool’s Paradise and Dual Passport — and a memorable mariachi ensemble performance at last year’s Austin City Limits music festival, it’s now Reynaga who is releasing her own spin on the genre.

On her album Valerosa, you'll find songs like "Si Me Voy" and "Huapango" which exhibit the classic mariachi sounds that can be heard across South and Central Texas, while "Master of Fate" flexes the pop muscles that were ingrained in her long ago.

Jerry Quijano is the local All Things Considered anchor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @jerryquijano.
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