A year ago, 15-year-old Yahritza Martinez was playing soccer for A.C. Davis High School in Yakima, Wash. When she wasn’t on the pitch, she and her four brothers and sisters would wake up early in the morning to help their father pick fruit in the Yakima Valley.
Today, Yahritza, singer, songwriter and guitarist for her sibling trio Yahritza y Su Esencia (Yahritza and Her Essence), are at the SoHo House in downtown Los Angeles, to promote the release of their debut EP, “Obsessed,” which immediately became the No. 1 Latin album on Apple Music.
In mid-February, a snippet of Yahritza y Su Esencia’s breakup ballad “Soy El Unico,” written by a 13-year-old Yahritza, went viral on TikTok. After the song was released by their label Lumbre Music, it flew to the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot Latin Songs chart and crashed the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 20, making Yahritza the youngest Latin performer to enter the all-genre chart.
“Yeah, it’s crazy, because it was our first song ever,” says 24-year-old Armando Martinez, who plays the 12-string guitar. “Like, we hadn’t released nothing at all.”
Mando, as he’s known, began playing 12-string guitar six months ago. His younger brother Jairo Martinez, 17, plays the acoustic bass known as the bajoloche, which he learned last summer after growing frustrated trying to learn guitar. Yahritza first picked up the guitar about a year ago.
"[Our parents] have been very supportive,” Yahritza says. “When I was younger I would see my dad singing and I wanted to be like him.”
“But I also got it from him,” she says, pointing at Mando. “He’s the one that inspired [me and Jairo].”
Mando was born in Jiquilpan in the Mexican state of Michoacán — the same place their parents were born — while Jairo and Yahritza were born and raised in Yakima.
The trio grew up surrounded by Mexican music, watching their father play in a family band with their two uncles. Mando joined the group when he was only 10, playing keyboards.
Yakima is known for its agriculture and vineyards, and the siblings are no strangers to the long hours and labor it takes to keep up that reputation. Their father started taking them to the fields when they got a bit older to teach them his fruit-picking secrets and how to make money in the fields.
“Once you start getting older, you hit the field with your parents,” Mando said. “Ever since we were like 10 or 11, we’d go help my dad pick apples, cherries, pears.”
The family band was discovered through TikTok after Jairo and Yahritza’s cover of “Está Dañada” by Riverside teen Ivan Cornejo went viral in November. Within minutes of the upload, their video started blowing up on the platform — today it has over 80,000 likes, and Jairo and Yahritza have a combined total of around 1.7 million TikTok followers.
A few Zoom meetings later, Ramón Ruiz, chief executive of Lumbre Music, already knew these kids “could be the next big thing.” He and label president Alex Guerra flew to Yakima and signed the trio.
“[Musica Mexicana] has been categorized and put in a section that doesn’t fit Yahritza,” says Ruiz. “Even if you don’t speak Spanish, you just fall in love with the music,” Ruiz said.
The new album is a complex treatise on her newfound love and fame, told through a head-spinning mesh of flamenco, hyperpop, hip-hop and Caribbean sounds.
The band notes lo-fi Mexican singer-songwriters like Kevin Kaarl and Ed Maverick as two of their influences. But it’s clear that Yahritza y Su Esencia has a style all their own.
Mando and Jairo play simple chords that work together to complement Yahritza’s voice. Mando points out that he’s “not the best” at the 12-string guitar. “I’m trying to let her voice shine, so I don’t do too much,” he says.
On the rooftop of the downtown SoHo House, Yahritza sports a Chalino Sánchez tee — a shirt she admits she swiped from Jairo. For Yahritza, the first song that comes to mind when she thinks about the King of Corridos is “Nieves De Enero.”
“That’s my dad’s favorite song that I sing,” Yahritza said.
Yahritza and her brothers are slowly getting acclimated to their newfound fame. (Their sister, Adriana, manages the group.) Yahritza and Jairo are still high school students. Mando does most of the talking, Jairo the least. The tomboyish Yahritza, who exudes confidence in the group’s videos, tends to shyly look away when answering questions. They lightly tap their shoes and talk about their visit to Surgeon Studios, a custom sneaker studio in Los Angeles, where they played some soccer with its founder, Dominic Ciambrone.
“He got nutmegged by her,” Mando points to Yahritza as they all laugh.
After the interview, Yahritza, Jairo and Mando unbuckle their black carrying cases to reveal their instruments. In the blink of an eye, the trio strum a couple of chords and begin singing “Soy El Unico” for The Times, their team and anyone else on the rooftop willing to take a listen.
“Soy El Unico” became a heartbreak anthem for many, yet it was written by a then-13-year-old who took inspiration by studying TikToks of other users going through their own relationship drama. She recalls reading one line from a TikTok she was watching, and that’s when it all clicked for her.
“It was, ‘Oh, you’re not gonna find anybody better than me.’ That’s where I got the idea from,” Yahritza said.
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One of the first listeners to her song was Armando who, at the time, was dealing with a breakup from a longtime girlfriend. Yahritza’s powerful voice and lyrics made him realize the potential the song had to relate to people everywhere.
“I want people to know that that song was not about my ex,” he says with a smile. “Because there are some rumors out there on TikTok.”
At first, Yahritza was “really scared” to put out “Soy El Unico” because she thought her brothers and family would believe she was the one who is heartbroken.
“She was 13 at the time. We were like, ‘Who are we gonna have to beat up?’” Mando joked.
Today, the video for “Soy El Unico” has over 16 million views. The trio’s new “Obsessed” EP consists of five songs, three of which (“Soy El Unico,” “Enamorado” and “Dejalo Ir”) were written by Yahritza, plus covers of “Siendo Sincero” by Los Del Limit and “Esta Noche” by Nivel Codiciado and José Mejía.
In the SoHo House parking garage, a valet worker gushes to the trio over how obsessed his daughter is with them, even asking to record a birthday video to send her for later in the week.
“It’s like we make their day just by being there,” Mando adds. “It’s crazy.”
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