Ana Bárbara Celebrates 30 Years: How La Reina Grupera Continues to Forge Paths in Mexican Music

Ana Bárbara Celebrates 30 Years: How La Reina Grupera Continues to Forge Paths in Mexican Music

In a world where seasons change but legends remain, Ana Bárbara has positioned herself as an unforgettable icon in regional Mexican music and Latin pop.

Celebrating three decades of a spectacular career, the artist has excelled as the defining female voice of the grupero genre, with a mix of rhythms that has captivated millions. Throughout these years, the San Luis Potosí native has not only conquered hearts — with an extensive discography that includes 11 studio albums and 18 compilations — she has also molded the regional musical style.

From the time she debuted with an eponymous album in 1994 until she became La Reina Grupera, Altagracia Ugalde Motta (her real name) has released a succession of hits that resonate with a unique energy. Two decades ago, she delivered one of her biggest and most transcendent songs, “Lo Busqué”. “It was the first to make a crossover between pop and country,” Ana Bárbara says — and, as she can proudly claim, started a trend that now influences artists like Carín León, Chiquis and more.

Throughout her career, she has collaborated with legendary figures such as Vicente Fernández, Bronco and Paquita la del Barrio, and has been a key player in the rise of superstars like Christian Nodal and (more recently) Majo Aguilar and Adriana Ríos. Her career not only reflects her mastery of the stage, but also of the Billboard charts. Hits such as “Me Asusta Pero Me Gusta”, “La Trampa”, “Ya No Te Creo Nada” and “No Lloraré” reached the top 10 of Hot Latin Songs, and albums like Ay Amor (1996) and Yo Soy La Mujer (2014) established her as a mainstay on Regional Mexican Albums.

Ana Bárbara will be recognized with the Music Lifetime Achievement Award at Billboard Latin Women in Music 2024. In this intimate dialogue, The Queen of Grupera opens the doors to her world, revealing more about her achievements, challenges and the passion that continues to fuel her impressive musical legacy.

This year you are marking 30 years of musical career, and you will celebrate it soon with La Reina Grupera Tour.

Cómo han pasado los años (how the years have gone by), as the song [by Rocío Dúrcal] says — and it’s been incredible. With so many things happening in life, to have life is a miracle. It’s a blessing to be celebrating with music and a tour! It’s a triple blessing. The tour is a surge of nostalgia, of history, of feelings, of ups and downs of emotions. Because in 30 years, how many stories could have been written? How many were part of my songs? I can’t express enough thanks for the gratitude that my heart feels, without a doubt.

You sing, you compose, you dance. Is there an area that you enjoy the most in what involves being the superstar Ana Barbara, whether it’s recording, composing or performing live?

They all have their magic. But the songwriting part of it is very exciting. It’s like, “Oh my God, I came up with this! Where did it come from? What part of the universe? Where was my soul?” When I start producing it, I see if I want guitar here or trumpet there. The creative process is like an adrenaline rush. Also, you know that a feeling crystallized, if you can call it that. A feeling that took shape. Just talking about it gets me excited. Right now I’m finishing [a song that I’m] crazy about and listening to it makes me thing: “How did I come up with this?” I know, it’s really cool. That’s an indescribable feeling.

I was listening to your most recent track, “Así bailé”. You have a very fun way of telling stories that make you smile.

If you listened to it and say, “I laughed, I smiled, it put on a good attitude,” then I have done my job. That song was to talk about the anecdote of when you meet someone and it doesn’t matter how old you are. You can be 17, 18, 40, 50 or 60 years old, be single and feel butterflies in your stomach again. Why not? That’s what I love about that song.

You use norteño elements like the accordion, but it also sounds a bit country. How do you approach incorporating diverse styles into your music?

That’s something organic — that word is in style. “Lo Busqué” is going to be 20 years old, and I was lucky enough to be with Carín León at StageCoach [Festival on April 27], where he mentioned to those present that for him, that song, in his reality, was the first that made a crossover between pop and country. It is a song that marked him, and it marked me too when I wrote it.

When I wrote it, I had a lot of problems with the record label — because they told me: “Your song is neither grupera, nor ranchera, nor a ballad, nor country”. And I told them, “You know why it is nothing? Because it’s everything.” They’re songs that come naturally to me. I think it’s the impact of cultures — of traveling, of listening to all kinds of music — that makes me write that way.

Thirty years ago, when you were starting your career, regional Mexican music was even more male-dominated than it is today. What was it like to stand out and make your way as a female leader in the music scene and what challenges did you have to overcome?

The first challenge? Insecurity. It’s absolutely a man’s market. I still believe that. It’s misogynistic, and I say that with the authority of years of being in this. [A record executive] said, “We have five singles [to release], and Ana’s is going to be the fifth.” The first one, almost always, or always, is very male-focused. It’s insane! They’re career challenges that deflate your spirits.

But you keep going because of “orgullo de mujer cuando está herido”(or “a woman’s pride when it’s wounded”) — my song “Loca” (2004) says. Even if they [make you] let your guard down and say, “She’s probably going to get married or have children”, or “Oh, she’s not going to have the body she once had.”

No! If you got married, you got married; if you had a child, you bless them and move on. I have been a victim of these kinds of comments that can discourage any human being, any woman. Don’t let them make you let your guard down — you keep going, you keep fighting. If it impacts you, you have to know how to channel it. I have channeled it with my songs, through dance, concerts, and it has worked very well for me.

You proved it in February during your performance at Premio Lo Nuestro, with your medley of hits, the numerous costume changes, the choreography, and then you did a split! How do you prepare for that kind of gymnastics on stage? What’s your diet and routine like?

The worst thing that can happen to an artist, in my humble opinion, is that what they need the most is discipline or the routine to get in physical condition — to get on stage, sing and dance at the same time; daily exercise. We [artists] are always flying, traveling, going up, going down, all the time, and the only thing we don’t have is a routine. However, not having a constant of waking up in the same place — within that disorder you have to have an order.

I try to do sports at least three, four times a week. I do try to do them intensely — because imagine, singing, dancing, performing and costume changing is weight on your feet, arms and legs. Besides, you can’t become a fitness [guru], because you don’t have the time. One of the limitations is to look for schedules without routine, whether it’s in the evening, another in the morning, or at the crack of dawn. Do yoga, aerobics, things that give you the physical condition for that kind of performance.

The logical thing to do when you’re not traveling, singing, promoting, taking care of your home or your family, is to rest. Well, no! In those breaks, the stress I put on my body is one that is called positive stress. Even if I’m very tired, I try to exercise to have the condition for these kinds of challenges that are award show presentations, or touring — because for each [tour] show, you need an hour and a half or two. Imagine being on stage, up there in heels at this age. [Laughs.] Yes, it’s a big challenge, queen.

You have been a judge in competitions such as La Academia and Tengo Talento, Mucho Talento. How was that experience of being on the other side of the music industry?

You can go all over the world and you will never come across a monument like a critic. It’s funny, but the critic can suddenly be cold hearted, and will only say: “Look, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta, ta”, right? I was a critic, but I have been a judge — I have also been in programs as a contestant, not only once, but many times. From that sympathy, I made my comments [as judge]. I always wanted the contestant to feel good and comfortable, and leave there having lived a nice experience. Despite how strong [it can be], I always wanted them to have a glimmer of hope. But I tried to be realistic.

Besides the tour, what else is next for Ana Bárbara?

I have other music projects with new artists. María José, a Mexican singer that I love, just recorded a song. It is a song I wrote, called “Mi Rey, Mi Santo” (My King, My Saint), and the truth is that she sings it very beautifully. She invited me to sing it with her. It’s coming out [soon] and we are very excited.

Billboard Latin Women in Music 2024 will air exclusively on Telemundo Sunday (June 9) at 9 p.m. ET, and will also be available on the Telemundo app and on Peacock.

The post “Ana Bárbara Celebrates 30 Years: How La Reina Grupera Continues to Forge Paths in Mexican Music” by Isabela Raygoza was published on 06/05/2024 by