Tejano music is from the Mexican origin population of Texas and is sung in Spanish. While Tex-Mex is not Tejano because Tex-Mex is bilingual, as in the Texas Tornados song, “Hey Baby, Que Paso.” Regional Mexican and Musica Tejana, not Tejano, are all-inclusive of the sounds of the different ensembles such as orquesta, conjunto, norteño, grupo, banda, mariachi, trio, tropical/cumbia, vallenato and includes Tejano. (Burr, 1999, Peña, 1999) Tejano music incorporates many standard evergreen Mexican music compositions in the ranchero style such as “Tu, Solo, Tu,” and “El Rey” by Jose Alfredo Jimenez. The name Tejano refers more so to a geographic area than a blending or mixing of cultures, since Mexican music created in Texas or the sounds of Mexican popular music as developed in Texas are now heard around the world.
Only a few Tejano bands play polkas or waltzes and they definitely do not have flutes. They predominately perform rancheras and cumbias with occasional baladas. The bajo sexto (no “n”) is a 12-string guitar developed in Mexico and is used as the traditional accompaniment to the button accordion in conjunto and norteño ensembles. According to Ramon Hernandez, recently uncovered photographs show that Valerio Longoria may have been the first accordion player to include the drums. Narciso Martinez is credited with the staccato style use of the melody buttons and the elimination of the bass buttons, with the substitution of the bajo sexto for rhythm accompaniment.
Los Lobos are from California, not Texas, and mostly sing in English as a review of their discography will indicate. Los Lonely Boys sing mostly in English and do not have rancheras or cumbias in their repertoire. La Mafia and La Sombra (with an “o”) do not sing country style songs. By the 1990s, some Tejano music performers did began to include English songs on their albums and artists like Joe Lopez, Ram Herrera, Emilio Navaira and Selena do receive airplay of their English songs on Tejano radio stations.
Conjunto is not necessarily the most popular, although it does seem to receive more attention due to the media’s focus on the accordion. Conjunto and orquesta are like two sides of the same coin and parallel the musical phenomena of country and western as two distinct ensembles with a similar fan base. Richard Spottswood documents the first sound recordings of Spanish language music by Mexican origin musicians on this side of the border. Academic research regarding Musica Tejana sound recording labels continues to expand with inclusion of additional labels such as Corona, El Zarape, and Valmon.
Here are some references if you want to learn more: “Billboard Guide to Tejano and Regional Mexican Music” (1999) by Ramiro Burr; “Musica Tejana” (1999) by Manuel H. Peña; “Tejano Proud” (2002) by Guadalupe San Miguel; “Puro Conjunto” (2001) by Juan Tejeda and Avelardo Valdez; “Ethnic Music on Records: a Discography of Ethnic Recordings produced in the United States, 1893 to 1942 / 4 Spanish, Portuguese, Philippine, Basque” (1990) by Richard K Spottswood; “The Roots of Tejano and Conjunto Music” – Arhoolie Foundation.