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Music of the United States
History - Education
Colonial era - to the Civil War - During the Civil War - Late 19th century - Early 20th century - 40s and 50s - 60s and 70s - 80s to the present
Genres: Classical - Folk - Hip hop - Pop - Rock - Christian pop
Awards Grammy Awards, Country Music Awards, Gospel Music Awards
Charts Billboard Music Chart, American Top 40
Festivals Jazz Fest, Lollapalooza, Ozzfest, Monterey Jazz Festival
Media Spin, Rolling Stone, Vibe, Down Beat, Source, MTV, VH1
National anthem "The Star-Spangled Banner" and forty-eight state songs
Ethnic music
Native American - English: old-time and Western music - African American - Irish and Scottish - Latin: Tejano and Puerto Rican - Cajun and Creole - Hawaii - Other immigrants
Local music
AK - AL - AR - AS - AZ - CA - CO - CT - DC - DE - FL - GA - GU - HI - IA - ID - IL - IN - KS - KY - LA - MA - MD - ME - MI - MN - MO - MP - MS - MT - NC - ND - NE - NH - NM - NV - NJ - NY - OH - OK - OR - PA - PR - RI - SC - SD - TN - TX - UT - VA - VI - VT - WA - WI - WV - WY

Tejano music or Tex-Mex Music (Mexican-Texan music) is the name given to various forms of folk and popular music originating among the Hispanic populations of Central and Southern Texas. In recent years, artists such as the "Queen of Tejano" Selena Quintanilla, La Mafia, Jay Perez, and Mazz have transformed Tejano music from primarily a local, ethnic form of music to a genre with wide appeal in North America, Latin America, Europe, and beyond.



In the 1690s Spain settled the area that is now known as Texas. In 1718, San Antonio was established as a midway point to the missions of east Texas.

In 1745, Spain settled the area we now call the Rio Grande Valley, thus was born the Tejano (a Texan of Spanish heritage). Because of the remoteness of Texas at the time and its proximity to Louisiana, Tejano culture was very much tied to the Cajun culture, and its influence can still be heard in the region's music.

In the 1850s Europeans that came from Germany (first during Spanish time and 1830s), Poland and what is now the Czech Republic migrated to Texas and Mexico, bringing with them their style of music and dance. They brought with them the waltz, polkas and other popular forms of music and dance. However it was not until the Mexican Revolution (1910–1917) that forced many of these Europeans to flee Mexico and into South Texas, that their musical influence was to have a major impact on Tejanos.

At the turn of the century, Tejanos were mostly involved in ranching and agriculture. The only diversion was the occasional traveling musician who would come to the ranches and farms. Their basic instruments were the flute, guitar, and drum, and they sang songs that were passed down through the generations from songs originally sung in Spain and Mexico. One of these musicians was Lydia Mendoza, who became one of the first to record Spanish music as part of RCA's expansion of their popular race records of the 1920s. As these traveling musicos traveled into areas where the Germans, Poles and Czechs lived, they began to incorporate the oom-pah sound into their music. Narciso "El Huracan del Valle" Martinez, known as the father of Conjunto music, defined the accordion's role in Conjunto music.

Central to the evolution of early Tejano music was the blend of traditional forms such as the Corrido and Mariachi, and Continental European styles, such as Polka,[1] introduced by German and Czech settlers in the late 19th century. In particular, the accordion was adopted by Tejano folk musicians at the turn of the 20th century, and it became a popular instrument for amateur musicians in Texas and Northern Mexico. Small bands known as orquestas, featuring amateur musicians, became a staple at community dances.

Narciso Martínez (1911–1992) gave the accordion playing a new virtuosity in the 1930s, when he adopted the two button row accordion. At the same time, he formed a group with Santiago Almeida, a bajo sexto player. Their new musical style, known as Conjunto, soon became the popular music of the working class Tejano. Flaco Jiménez (1939-), the son of an accordionist and grandson of a man who had learned the instrument from a German immigrant, carried on Martinez's tradition of accordion virtuosity and became a fixture on the international World Music scene by the 1980s.

In the 1950s and 1960s, rock and roll and country music made inroads, and electric guitars and drums were added to conjunto combos. Also, performers such as Little Joe added both nuances of jazz and R&B, and a Chicano political consciousness.

The 1960s and '70s brought a new fusion of cultures and the first La Onda Tejana Broadcasters. Popular Tejano musician and producer Paulino Bernal of the legendary Conjunto Bernal discovered and introduced to the Tejano music scene the norteno band Los Relampagos Del Norte with Ramon Ayala and Cornelio Reyna on his Bego Records. His Tejano influence on their early recordings popularized this hot new act all the way until their breakup in the mid 1970s. Ramon Ayala still enjoys success on both sides of the border. Cornelio Reyna enjoyed a very successful career as an actor and singer and resurfaced in the Tejano scene with a major hit with his collaboration with Tejano artist La Mafia. He toured constantly until his recent death. In the 1960s and '70s the first La Onda Tejana broadcasting pioneers hit the airwaves including Marcelo Tafoya (first recipient of the Tejano Music Awards "Lifetime Achievement Award), Mary Rodriguez, Rosita Ornelas, and Luis Gonzalez these four were shortly followed by an influx of broadcasters including the famous Davila family of San Antonio. This central Texas support by popular broadcasters helped fuel the flames of La Onda.

"La Onda" continued to surge in the early to mid 80s with the fusion progression of tejano music coming to the forefront regionally with "tejano ballad" songs like Espejismo's hit "Somos Los Dos", written and sung by McAllen native Rudy Valdez, and La Sombra with their Tex-Mex English & Spanish brand of tejano. As the 80s faded away and ushered in the '90s, Houston based artist La Mafia, already with over a dozen Tejano Music Awards under their belt, originated a new Tejano style later to become a Tejano standard. La Mafia combined a pop-style beat to the popular Mexican-style cumbia and achieved success never before seen in the Tejano industry, becoming the first Tejano artist to sell over one million albums with "Estás Tocando Fuego" in 1992. With extensive touring from as early as 1988, they eventually opened the doors for such artists as Selena, Emilio Navaira, Jay Perez, and Grupo Mazz. Electronic instruments and synthesizers increasingly dominated the sound, and Tejano music increasingly appealed to bilingual country and rock fans. In the wake of her murder, Selena's music received attention from a mainstream American audience as well. Selena or the "Queen of Tejano Music" became the first female Tejano music artist to win a Grammy and her album Ven Conmigo became the first Tejano album by a women artist to go gold.

Since 1998 Tejano music has seen a decline of Tejano radio stations across the USA, possibly due to any number of factors, perhaps even including the huge influx of migrant workers from Mexico. Another factor may be the copycat sound that began after the success of Intocable; now there are so many Intocable sound-alikes that the music has become stale. As a result, many radio stations across the US especially in Texas have converted over to Norteño/Banda music. This has caused Tejano internet radio to become popular, but at the same time it stifles the growth of new Tejano fans because it is no longer in the public mainstream. Whether Tejano will keep growing is yet to be seen with the new age of internet, and a few companies promoting internet Tejano communities.

The elements of Tejano

Tejano music was born in Texas. Although it has influences from Mexico and other Latin American countries, the main influences are American. Contemporary classic Tejano artists such as Emilio and Raulito Navaira, David Lee Garza and Jay Perez exhibit influence from rock, blues, funk, and country. It is important to understand that Tejano music has various categories of music and bands. Three major categories are Conjunto, Orchestra and Modern. A Conjunto band is composed of accordion, bajo sexto, bass, and drum. Examples of Conjunto Bands are Esteban "Steve" Jordan, The Hometown Boys and Jaime de Anda y Los Chamacos. An Orchestra consists of bass, drum, electric guitar, synthesizer, and a brass section on which it relies heavily for its sound. It can also have an accordion in the band at times. An example of an Orchestra is Ruben Ramos and the Texas Revolution, Juan Alfredo Perez. A Modern Tejano band consists of synthesizers, drums, electric guitar, bass and at times an accordion. It relies heavily on the synthesizer for its sound. Modern bands are La Mafia, Selena and her band Selena Y Los Dinos, Shelly Lares, Jay Perez, and Jimmy Gonzalez Y Mazz. Other categories consist of Progressive, Pop and Urban Tejano music. All of these categories are classified as Tejano.

With the keyboard, drum and the bajo sexto, a 12 string bass guitar from Spain, Tejanos now had a sound they could begin to call their own. In the 1940s, Valerio Longoria introduced lyrics to conjunto music, further establishing the Tejano claim to this new sound. Tejano music did retain some of its roots in the old European styles. Polkas and waltzes were still popular, and also popular was the German habit of dancing in a circle around the dance floor. It can also be noted that Country-Western is also danced in the same manner, but only in Texas.

In the 1950s, Isidiro Lopez further revolutionized the Tejano sound by emphasizing less on the traditional Spanish that Valerio used and using the new Tex-Mex instead. This created a newer sound and took us one step closer to the sound we have today. In the 1960s and '70s Little Joe and the Latinairs, later renamed La Familia, The Latin Breed, and others infused the orchestra sound into the Tejano sound, taking their influences from the Pop, R&B and other forms of music. In the late 70s and early 80s, there was a new sound emerging with up and coming groups like McAllen's Espejismo, lead by songwriter/lead singer Rudy Valdez, and more notably Brownsville natives Joe Lopez, Jimmy Gonzalez y El Grupo Mazz introduced the keyboard sound to Tejano which was influenced by the Disco sound of the era, and during that period,La Mafia became the first Tejano band to put on Rock Style shows for their MTV generation.

Some of the major artists and bands of the past couple of decades include Selena, La Mafia, Roberto Pulido, Laura Canales, David Marez, Xelencia, La Fiebre, La Sombra, Culturas, Elsa Garcia, Gary Hobbs, Fama, Pete Astudillo, Ram Herrera, La Diferenzia, Patsy Torres, Michael Salgado, Intocable, Los Palominos, Jennifer Peña, Duelo, Los Arcos, Rebecca Valadez, and several regional local bands.

In the last few years or so there has been an increasing Mexican influence on Tejano music resulting in a sound more like Norteno. The Accordion, while a historically popular instrument in Tejano music, has gone from a secondary or specialty instrument to a "must have" instrument. Today, groups like Jaime de Anda Y Los Chamacos, Sunny Sauceda, Eddie Gonzalez, and La Tropa F emphasize the accordion.

At the turn of the 21st century, the Tejano influence has declined in part due to decreased promotion, the rise in regional Mexican and other Latin music, the breakup or retirement of established performers, and the emergence of few new performers. Most Tejano artists who performed throughout the 1990s during the music's peak who are still performing today have rarely played to the same widestream attention in recent years. Regardless, today's Tejano music, while far more pop-oriented than its Depression-era roots, is still a vital regional musical style in several Tejano communities as well as in other parts of the United States.

The term Tex-Mex is also used in American rock and roll for Tejano-influenced performers such as the Sir Douglas Quintet and the Texas Tornados featuring Flaco Jiménez, Freddy Fender, Augie Meyers, Doug Sahm; Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs; Los Lobos and Latin Playboys; Sunny and the Sunliners; Louie and the Lovers; The Champs with "Tequila"; Ry Cooder; Calexico; Cecilia with Viva Texas; The Mars Volta; Los Lonely Boys.

Texan accordion music has also influenced Basque trikitixa players.

Contemporary Swedish-American composer Sven-David Sandström has incorporated Tejano music stylings in his classical music.


  1. ^ German Roots of Mexican Music, Accessed July 2006.

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