Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Download Real Player
Accordion Dreams
cultures_of_music_and_dance
All About Conjunto
Cultures of Music & Dance
Pioneers, Innovators & Today
onMouseOver="changeImage('timeDiv','timeImg','time_on')" onMouseOut="changeImage('timeDiv','timeImg','time_off')">Timeline
Resources
About The Film
Amazing Accordion
Fun Facts/Terms

Tejanos

Real Audio Available Rubén Vela, La Quebrada, IDEAL Records

A hundred years ago, a new music was evolving in South Texas. The people here, caught between Mexico and the rest of the U.S., created their own unique culture.Cowboys on a ranch Their language was Spanish, their traditions Mexican. And they lived and worked in a vast area that was little known to the rest of America. Struggling to form an identity, the Mexican Americans called themselves Tejanos, from the Spanish word tejas meaning "Texas".

As they adapted to a new culture, familiar traditions began to change. Nowhere is that more evident than in the music. The music created by Tejanos was a uniquely American synthesis of Mexican and European styles and reflected the spirit of the people and the land in which they lived. The Tejano identity continues to be shaped by the unusual experience of existing between two worlds. The result now is a music which is both Mexican and American.

dancehallTejano music has been evolving for the last 100 years--and at its core, it embraces the songs that have been passed down from generation to generation. Known as rancheras, these songs from Mexico were about love, hope and loss.

Throughout the Depression years, Mexican Americans were pushed further and further away from mainstream society. Many Mexican nationals were being deported from the U.S. and segregation and discriminationDiscriminatory sign against Mexican Americans was commonplace. This conflict found its expression in their music. However, World War II was a major turning point for Mexican Americans who would for the first time participate as equals. Following their return from war, Mexican Americans said no "to back to business as usual" and demanded to be treated as full citizens.

Tejano music has become a lucrative business, audienceattracting large audiences of all ages. Taking on a more polished and commercial image, the popularity of the music has attracted major recording labels. Not only have major record labels come to Texas in full force, but even major corporations see the potential of this market.

Copyright ©2001 Galan Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

Conjunto

Real Audio Available Jose Moreno y Rigo Garza, Bailando En Rancho San Pedro, Chief Records (example of Schottische)

Jose Moreno y Rigo Garza, Las Tranquitas, Chief Records (example of Huapango)

Jose Moreno y Rigo Garza, El Mencito, Chief Records (example of Redova)

Jose Moreno y Rigo Garza, El Golfo, Chief Records (example of Vals)

La Tropa F, Bailando con Los Farias, Hacienda Records (example of Ranchera)

European song styles and music from northern Mexico were combined to create conjunto, a musical form unique to Texas. Accordion-driven conjunto music is steeped in history and continues to find its place in the American cultural mosaic. One of the key instruments is the bajo sexto, Narciso and accompanimenta twelve string bass guitar. Known as the father of conjunto music, Narciso Martínez redefined the role of the accordion. With musical partner Santiago Almeida handling the accompaniment with the bajo sexto, Narciso stopped using the left-hand bass and chord buttons creating the distinctive style conjunto is known for.

The music thrived all along the backroads of Texas. Known as música norteña out of Texas, conjunto became the most powerful musical symbol of the working class. Untouched by commercial influences, and still using traditional instruments, conjunto retained its purity.

Like the music itself, the traditional conjunto audience has remained constant. Conjunto musicians rely heavily on their fan base and for them, it is more about who you play for--than what you play. Through the years conjunto musicians have survived by traveling to small Texas towns and bringing the music to the people. Travelling musicians They have traditionally sold their product at dance halls and mom and pop record stores. The conjunto circuit is still along the same roads that were used when musicians followed migrant workers. The south Texas region, known simply as The Valley, where the music was born, remains a required stop for touring conjunto bands.

Conjunto communities have also embraced the European dances brought to Texas by its immigrants and eventually stamped them with their own distinctive style--even renaming some. Common dances such as the redova were transformed to vals bajito with the waltz known as vals alto. dancersOther regionalized dances of European origin included the mazurka, the schottische and the polka. The huapango from Tamaulipas, Mexico, rounded out the conjunto repertoire until World War II. With the exciting and innovative changes made by Valerio Longoria, including adding singing, the older dancing genres were abandoned as the polka and the vocal, in the form of the canción ranchera (either in vals or polka time), became the staples of the modern conjunto. The polka of today has slowed down quite a bit from its European beginnings with the dancers' feet shuffling more than being picked up--possibly to accommodate dancing in the heat in Texas as compared to the cooler northern European countries it originated in.

Trans-generational in nature, conjunto is its own culture with the accordion as its central instrument. People playingIt continues to evolve and thrive today and plays an integral and vital role in many communities. Historically a male-dominated genre, the music form is opening up to and enthusiastically encouraging young females into its world of accordions. It has matured and evolved into a family cultural experience that is shared and enjoyed by all.

Copyright ©2001 Galan Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

German Texans

Real Audio Available Perly Sowell, Muss i Denn, live recording

German immigrants came to Texas around the mid-1800s and settled in Central Texas in towns like Fredericksburg,German group Gruene, and New Braunfels--better known as the German Belt. Bringing their language, culture and musical traditions, they made contact with the Mexican Americans. Later, they had also moved further south to South Texas and Northern Mexico to work the fields and the construction of railroad lines and brought with them the accordion to play their waltzes and polkas.

At one time, German immigrants were the majority European ethnic population in Texas, but their presence has decreased throughout the years. The German population was still about 60% even in the 1940s--but is probably around 10% today. With the accordion as their central instrument in their music, the German Texans had a significant musical influence on the Tejano communities who incorporated both their dancing and musical styles into their own cultures.

German Troubadours

Today, visiting winter Texans from northern states where polka dancing is still popular make up the majority of the crowd at local German dances. The traditional music is quickly fading and for the people of the German Belt, the accordion is not the central instrument that it once was.

Perly Sowell, a descendant of a German family that helped settle the German Belt, has played this region for over 20 years and Perly Sowelltries to maintain the musical traditions passed down by her uncle. There was a time when taking accordion lessons was a social thing and many teens took them. But today, accordion instructors are scarce. The musical generation gap is widening within this culture and the use of an Old World instrument is being lost.

Copyright ©2001 Galan Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

scoll up
scoll down