Tejano music is a musical sound born in Texas among the Hispanic populations of that region. Also called Tex-Mex, it is often thought of as Texan or Spanish-Texan and represents the musical sound of the area. It runs the gauntlet of Mexican and Spanish inspired sounds, from mariachis and bandas, to accordions and string bands.
This music recalls the regional and class variations of traditional Spanish music, with modern orchestras, fiddlers and falsetto singers. It combines the folk, country, rock and blues of Texas to make a sound distinctively “Tex-Mex.” The music got its name and sound from the mixing of cultures as Mexicans settled north of the Rio Grande in Texas.
Tejano music, like most music around the world, mixes many different styles. It offers different compositions of bands, instruments, singers and sounds, and relies on the flute, guitar, drums and accordion. One popular instrument especially important in the rise of this genre is the bajo sexto, a Spanish 12-string bass guitar. Tejano began with a Spanish folk sound, emerged with polkas and waltzes, soon incorporated orchestras, and since the 1980s, it has involved the keyboard and the pop and rock influences of American popular sounds.
Of the three main types of Tejano music, Conjunto is the most popular. Conjunto music was created and defined by Narcisco Martinez in the 1930s when he brought the accordion into a prominent position in the Tejano sound, and combined it with a bajo sexto and a drum to form Conjunto. The second type, orchestra, introduces a brass section, along with an electric guitar and synthesizer. The third type, modern Tejano, mixes the other two forms, and introduces a more modern sound with heavy emphasis on the synthesizer.
This genre has its roots in 1745, when Spanish pioneers settled the Rio Grande valley. After incorporating European sounds in the 1850s, it began incorporating original songs into an array of folk and traditional music. The songs were often of a folk lyric vein, of hard times, love and class struggles. Starting in the 1920s, major record labels, such as Columbia, began selling recordings. Through promotion, distribution and the establishment of Tex-Mex record labels, Tejano music grew in popularity from the 1920s to the 1970s, when it because established as a major musical sound that gained “rock style” fans.
In the late 20th century, English was increasingly incorporated into the songs, and the music began assimilating an American country and rock sound. It grew in popularity through such acts as Los Lobos, Los Lonely Boys, La Mafia, La Sombra, Patsy Torres, and Selena. Tejano music can be heard across the world, and since the 1920s, it has been a vital sound in the area that gave its birth.