Saturday, May 2, 2009
Tejano Conjunto Accordion Pionneers
Narciso Martínez - Muchachos Alegres (polka) (buy)(1946)
After Mexico's independance, Central European immigrants, and especially German farmers and brewers settled on both sides of the border. They brought with them the accordion, a recent invention in Germany. Mexican and Tejano musicians borrowed it quickly, seduced its loudness, cheap price and ability to play bass and melody. Accompanied by bajo sexto and contrabajo and later with saxophones and drums, the accordion became the leading instrument of Norteño music, in Mexico or Conjunto Tejano (Tex-Mex) across the border.
This music adapted all forms of styles and dances from central europe (polka, waltz, mazurka) and from hispanic origin (corridos, the border ballads, but also bolero, mariachi or ranchera). Tejano in 20th century became the hispanic equivalent of country music for Southern Anglos or the blues for Afro-Americans.
Bruno Villareal - Un Capricho (buy)(1935)
Bruno Villareal, a blind itinerant musician from San benito, was the first to record in 1930, and was soon followed by other pionneers like narciso martinez, the first great accordion player and the father of Tejano Conjunto.
According to Chris Strachwitz at Arhoolie Records, "Narciso Martínez made hundreds of recordings of mostly instrumental dance tunes emphasizing the melody side of the accordion and leaving the bass parts to his bajo sexto player. This established a new sound, a sound which to this day is immediately identifiable as Texas-Mexican Conjunto Music. Not only did Narciso establish the conjunto accordion sound, but he was also one of the first to accompany singers on commercial records when he became the house accordionist for the newly established Ideal label of San Benito, Texas in 1946. He played with popular singers like Carmen & Laura, or Lydia Mendoza.
Lydia Mendoza with Narciso Martínez - Si Fue por Eso (bolero) (buy)(1954)
(...)Martínez learned many tunes from German and Czech brass bands. He'd listen with a friend who had a good ear and memory. The friend would whistle the tunes to Narciso when they got home, allowing Narciso to transpose them to his accordion!"
Narciso Martínez - Patricia(mazurka) (buy)(1951)
Without Chris Strachwitz at Arhoolie Records, a great tejano lover and record collector who purchased the Ideal Company and recorded numerous tejano and norteño artists, this joyful music wouldn't be so available.
For more information, check these articles about Narciso Martínez and the roots of Tejano music written by Strachwitz.