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Studio Milwaukee at The Cooperage: Reyna Tropical

Jen Ellis

If you’re a Studio Milwaukee Session frequent flier — either seeing it in person or listening to them on 88Nine/here on the website — you know there’s two components to this particular dish: the performance and the interview. For their session, Reyna Tropical brought something rare to both.

As the music flowed, Fabiola Reyna treated us to an entirely Spanish-language performance, which sent me digging through the Studio Milwaukee archives to see if it had ever happened before. A five-year trip in the wayback machine yielded no results, although one would hope that’ll change moving forward considering the surging popularity of Latin music.

If you haven’t experienced that movement for yourself, Reyna Tropical perfectly illustrated the captivating nature of the trend in their three-song set. The deft guitarwork, the vocals that swapped playfulness and passion, the flourishes from the DJ deck — it all reduced any language barrier to rubble as the crowd at The Cooperage unconsciously moved along to the music.

On the interview side, Reyna and Radio Milwaukee’s Kenny Perez took the less-traveled road of dealing very directly with heavy topics. These mid-set chats tend to stay on the lighter side, but this one dove right in as Reyna explained the title of their new album, Malegría. “In the literal definition, it’s the word ‘mal,’ which is ‘bad,’ and ‘alegría,’ which is ‘joy,’” she explained. “So it’s that intersection of feeling both sad and happy at the same time.”

As the conversation went on, Reyna applied that duality to things she experienced in her own life that extend more broadly to so many people. Her identity as “a proud lesbian woman,” but also the sexism and homophobia she witnessed while being raised on the border. The grief she experienced upon the death of her musical partner, Nectali “Sumohair” Diaz, as well as the lessons from her ancestors that “death isn’t just about pain. It’s about dancing, it’s about movement, it’s about creation, it’s about remembering joy and happiness.”

It’s an interview as enlightening and delightful as the performance, and you can hear both facets of this Studio Milwaukee Session using the player at the top of the page. If you prefer to catch it on air, Kenny Perez will replay the session on La Alternativa this Sunday, July 14, at 5 p.m. (88Nine) and 10 p.m. (HYFIN).

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