Reyna Tropical 2024
Photo: Devyn Galindo / Pitch Perfect PR

Reyna Tropical Find the Bitter and the Sweet on ‘Malegría’

All we have is each other. Let’s dance and fall in love, for what else is there? Reyna Tropical’s Malegría provides the soundtrack.

Reyna Tropical
Psychic Hotline
29 March 2024

Reyna Tropical began as a duo in 2016 as a collaboration between singer/guitarist/songwriter Fabiola Reyna and DJ, musician, and artist Nactali “Sumohair” Diaz. The duo released two highly regarded EPs that featured highly rhythmic music that blended exotic drumbeats, loopy guitar phrases, and celestial vocals. Their music made one want to dance and dream at the same time. Sadly, Sumo died in an e-scooter accident in Los Angeles in 2022. Fabio has soldiered on and recently released Reyna Tropical’s first full-length album, Malegría. It’s a wild creation filled with lively instrumental surface buoyancy, thoughtful, completive lyrics, field recordings from nature, and conversational interludes previously recorded between Sumo and Fabi.

Malegría‘s title comes from a 1988 Manu Chao song. Chao coined the term “Malegría” as a combination of the two Spanish language words “mal” (bad) and “alegría” (happiness). The result can be defined as something like sad/happy or bittersweet, emphasizing the positive side of the equation. The mixed emotions conjured up are like those one would feel while remembering the life of a treasured friend who is no longer alive, presumably the way Fabi feels about her experiences with Sumo. The memories bring pain but also joy.

Fabi sings in Spanish and often abandons language for pure sounds that express the deeper truths that she feels in her body. She will also indulge in repetition so that the words themselves become pure sounds, as in “La Mama” and “Lo Siento”, where she restates the phrase “No, lo se, lo siento” (“I don’t know, I’m sorry”) eight times. Her sadness is best conveyed by the repeating of guitar riffs combined with retelling her sorrow. The recurring rhythm makes one physically feel the singer’s distress.

That is similar to the way the sounds of nature are incorporated into Reyna Tropical’s music. The track “Moviemiento” compares the feeling of being connected by love to the movement of the sea. The sound of gentle waves opens the song and can be heard throughout in the background while Fabi coos and quietly strums her guitar. The connections one has to others, and the planet itself are all manifestations of the same spirituality. One feels it inside one’s body and experiences it by paying attention to the resonances of the natural world.

The verbal interludes are mainly in English and show the laughter and good times Fabi and Sumo had making and talking about music. Their conversations reveal their shared purpose of promoting the culture of the tropical diaspora and their ambitions. Fabi is an activist and founder of the magazine She Shreds, which is dedicated to women and nonbinary guitarists. On the interlude “Singing”, Fabi notes that she initially resisted singing because she worried it would distract listeners from appreciating her guitar work. Now, she sees it as another “character” by which she can express herself. Indeed, while Fabi is an excellent guitarist, she also uses her voice well to present her narratives.

Fabi generally sings in a hushed voice, which creates intimacy with the listener. She presents the character of the friend who tells us what we should already know. Life is a blend of joy and sorrow, the sweetness of life’s moments mixed with bitterness. All we have is each other. Let’s dance and fall in love, for what else is there? Reyna Tropical’s Malegría provides the soundtrack.

RATING 8 / 10