I was recently asked how I would describe the sound of Tejano music and my first thought was the accordion and the sound of a synthesizer. Depending on how old you are you may agree or disagree with my thoughts on the sounds of Tejano Music.
A little history refresher first: The word Tejas is an indigenous word from the Hasinai Tribe of east Texas that means “friendly or allies”. Before Mexico won its independence from Spain, the Spaniards who settled in Tejas also called themselves Tejanos or Tejanas. With the mix of Norteno Music (Music from North Mexico) and German, Polish and Czech immigrants in Texas the first form of Tejano Music was born. The original form of Tejano music was conjunto music, which was a lesser form of mariachi music.Tejano Conjunto music has a button accordion and included a 12-string guitar and acoustic bass guitar until later. The people danced waltzes and polkas.
In San Antonio you get to experience the music everyday throughout the city in the culture, the people and the art. The city dedicates two weeks of “Fiesta” and there is always Tejano music playing at the Market Square. Almost every Tejano artist has performed there at one point in their career, was born in San Antonio, or at least has ties to San Antonio. Papel picado hangs all year long because there is always a fiesta with Tejano music playing.
Leaving downtown San Antonio crossing the bridge on Commerce St., going into the heart of the westside, you get to witness the art of David Blancas Mural “la Música de San Anto”. The Mural Includes Pioneers Randy Garibay, Clifford Scott, Rocky Morales Felix Villarreal, Eva Garza, Doug Saham, Rosita Fernandez Lydia Mendoza and Manny Castillo. The ladies, Eva Garza, Rosita Fernandez and Lydia Mendoza paved the way for female artists like Laura Canales, Shelly Lares and Selena to hit the U.S market and the World Market decades later. The men added the blues and R&B that we hear in the Tejano music today.
Tejano turned into a big band and Orchestra genre with a little bit of swing and Mexican folk with conjunto traditions, with the addition of synthesizers, keyboards, and conjunto became its own form of music. Through it all, Tejano music has the ballad, the cumbia, the doo wop feels and everything in between. Lyrics such as “Borracho de besos borracho de amor me tienes loco de tanta pasión me embriaga tus besos me embriaga tu amor no se’ que le pasa no se le has hecho a mi Corazón” written by Luis Silva, performed by La Fiebre, you just want to grab your partner closer and sway to the slow song even tighter. When you hear a cumbia come on you get that extra hop in your step and dance in sync holding hands or not, twirling and turning.
Growing up in the late 80’s and during the 90’s it is hard not to get a little nostalgic of going to Tejano music Festivals at the park with your family and friends. I remember where I was and what I was doing at the exact moment that we heard that Selena had been shot. In the many music genres there are specific sounds, instruments and dance moves that identify the music. The beauty of Tejano Music is that it has grown with the history of the “Friendly State” of Texas and North Mexico. Tejano Music has evolved from Rosita Fernandez and Flaco Jimenez, through Mazz, la Mafia, Shelly Lares, to 2021 Latin Grammy Nominees El Plan, Vilax , Solido, Ram Herrera and La Fiebre. Instruments have been added and removed, the dance moves have evolved from Columbia to Texas, and it has even taken an art form that will live on from California to New York and everywhere in between. There will always be the music that binds us.