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What is up with all the Tejano music?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Benjamin Strange, Aug 16, 2004.

  1. Benjamin Strange

    Benjamin Strange Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    New Orleans, LA
    Owner / Tech: Strange Guitarworks
    In the factory at work, we have quite an ethnic mix (white, asian, hispanic... no blacks, though... :confused: ). The hispanic guys bring in their radios, tune them in to the Spanish station, and listen to it all day. But it seems to me that every song sounds the same. And not just sort of the same, I mean it's like Nickelback-type sameness. Oom-pah, oom-pah, oom-pah.... over and over and over and over again. Most of it is in the key of C, and most is in 2/4. I don't know what they guys are singing about (can't speak Spanish yet), but it can't be that profound that it's worth it to listen to the same song all day long. What gives? Why is this music so popular in the hispanic community? Am I missing the whole point by not understanding the words, or is it a cultural thing? As a musician, listening to something that sounds the same over and over drives me nuts; but I'm sure non-musicians would find it equally annoying. Why do these guys seem to dig it so much they would listen to it for 10 hours a day?

    Enlighten me, people.
  2. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    My guess is that if you knew the language and we inside the culture, the music would not sound so much the same to you. Alot of music sounds alike if you don't listen that closely. As an African American, I can tell you that many people in my community could not tell you the difference between heavy metal, punk, and grunge. To those who don't really like rock, it's just loud guitars played by white guys. My guess is that conbsciously or not, your reaction to Tejano is somewaht similar to what I have described.
  3. Davehenning


    Aug 9, 2001
    Los Angeles
    Here in LA, there is Tejano everywhere. I like Tejano, but different strokes.....


  4. The people are really into the accordians and lyrics when it comes to that music. The basslines to many of the groups that play that type of music sound the same. I've noticed too. I'm hispanic so I kind of know this since my parents grew up listening to that stuff so i'm guessing they like it mainly because of the lyrics and because you can dance to the music.
  5. Marlat


    Sep 17, 2002
    London UK

    I dont often laugh out loud at work.... :D
  6. Kavorka


    Mar 28, 2002
    Austin, Texas
    I don't think its just a "you're not part of the culture" thing. That surely plays into our personal biases on music preferences but, I think Benjamin is experiencing a different phenomenon.

    Tejano can be diverse and audibly distinct between songs but, here is Texas, there are stations that play songs that DO sound extremely similar to the last. It seems some stations find that type of song they want and play it over and over.

    Rock might sound the same to many, but I'm talking about, as an example, a station that only plays 80's power ballads all day. I think people would notice that a station that plays that format all day is different from a station playing a rock mix.

    In your case, Benjamin, I'm afraid it is the lyrics that make the songs different and enjoyable. Until you learn Spanish, its going to feel a bit like torture. I suggest headphones ;)
  7. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    The accordions used in Tejano music are diatonic (i.e. only have notes for 1 or 2 keys) which is why many of the songs are in the same keys, to change keys the guy needs a different accordion. This is true of all music that uses button accordions...Irish, Cajun, etc.

    The lyrics are REAL IMPORTANT in a lot of Tejano stuff, many songs are actually written about current events. There is a whole class of songs called "narco-corridas" that are about dope smuggling, for example.

    As Dr. Cheese pointed out, almost any genre of music will seem pretty monochromatic if you don't listen to it a lot and learn about it's nuances (i.e. all the people who don't "get" rap or jazz or C&W or whatever).

    Start listening to the bass lines, there's a lot of cool runs going on in those songs, it's not all oom-pah. Ask your Hispanic work buddies to take you out to see a Tejano band (called a "conjunto") play live some time.

    I'd love to play in a Tejano band but up here in Boston that's unlikely :D
  8. What an easy gig to play, when the whole set sounds the same! :p
  9. DigMe


    Aug 10, 2002
    Waco, TX
    Benjamin has a good point! Look at Little Joe. He's a grammy-winning hispanic artist who incorporates a lot of the Tejano sounds into his music but he also incorporates blues, rock and a bit of jazz into it. He also doesn't have an accordian player. Because of those things (ie he doesn't sound like everyone else) a lot of people around here who consider themselves "real Mexicans" pooh-pooh Little Joe's music. I talked to one guy bashing him and asked what he likes and he said "oh I like the ___" and basically described every Tejano song and band ever. He also complained that Little Joe has no accordian. :rolleyes:

    Having said that...I like some of it. :)

    brad cook
  10. Woodchuck


    Apr 21, 2000
    Atlanta (Grant Park!)
    Gallien Krueger for the last 12 years!
    As a guy that listens to EVERYTHING, hell I just bought an OTEP CD!, I can get into some of it. I've also found that the stuff I like, the "real" Mexicans hate. I can understand it. I grew listening to the Cold Crush Brothers, so I can't see how anyone can stomach .50 Cents. It's like someone liking Metallica, and having someone mentioning how Six Feet Under would crush them. (Which they would, BTW!)
  11. keb


    Mar 30, 2004

    Seriously though, I was subjected to a lot of tejano music when I was interning at a studio. Tejano was the studio/label's bread and butter and paid the bills. I learned to appreciate it, and a lot of the rhythm sections in those bands are tight.
  12. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    I guess i'm technically a Tejano guy around here, i'll do the best that I can....

    I have played in many, many, many Tejano groups (also San Antonio is considered the Tejano capital of the World, FWIW) - there's some great Tejano and some really, really bad Tejano - but this happens in all genres.

    Great Tejano (and I have been blessed to have worked with these guys) - Little Joe (as Brad said), Ruben Ramos (recorded three albums with him - check out the album "Smooth" or even "Nueve Vidas") and the current group i'm working with - the Latin Breed (the 70's-80's arrangements are just great - fat, fat horn section and the bass player Pete Garza is truly a groover) and BTW, I played or have played trumpet with these guys, not bass - my Tejano bass playing sucks - to sound correct, you really have to learn the "pasada's" and how to really groove with a polka. other great's are the Tortilla Factory (Los Lonely Boys came from the same town as these guys), Joe Bravo, Sunny and the Sunliners, Alfonso Ramos, etc.

    Bad Tejano bands - won't say, i don't want to get sued :D

    the "thing" with Tejano (my opinion) is very much a cultural one - at all the shows I have played, you will see mostly working class people there just to have a good time and to see the childhood idol they grew with, they are not really there to hear what Matt Garrison would play over A7+9. many people grew up with this music (as my parents did) so this is why I call it a cultural "thing". what i'm trying to get at is that the lyrics just make you want to drink and let your worries go away! ;)

    I have seen a rapid decline in Tejano music since about 1999 and what may be popular now is Conjunto or even Norteno - the styles are different and the lyrics are different (conjunto and norteno use correct grammar; tejano singers usually don't use the best spanish - most of the time it's Tex-Mex).

    Ben, PM me if you want more detailed info...


    ps, sorry for my bad historical skills
  13. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    With a relatively large Hispanic community here, I know what you mean about the music, Ben. The bass is always some sort of tuba/Sousaphone playing octaves for the bass, accordian-type instruments are in everything, and some guy is melodramatically weeping on vocals about his "corazon" ("heart"). It's almost funny to listen to one of those songs and count the number of times "corazon" is mentioned in the lyrics.
    And every song sounds like the one just before it.

    Some call it "norte" or "norteno" music, some call it "tejano." Either way, it really originated in southwestern Texas, not Mexico. I've spent a lot of time on the Carribean coast of Mexico and you never hear that stuff. Their music is really cool........the kind of stuff where you get into an impromptu line of samba dancers.

    I'm sure the lovers of that norte/tejano music could say the same thing about much of the music within the traditional US culture. For instance, to the uneducated ear, does Metallica really sound much different than Ozzy Osbourne and are the lyrics much different ???
    And don't forget the supreme monotony of the brain-dead....rap...(if you want to think of that garbage as "music:).
  14. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    tuba/sousaphone= Banda music - different from Tejano music - the phrasing is different

  15. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    here's some more help (this is from "The Billboard Guide to Tejano and Regional Mexican Music by Ramiro Burr"):

    Tejano - "Tejano, which is Spanish for 'Texan,' is a roots-based hybrid of traditional Mexican rancheras, polkas, and cumbias that have been updated with blues, pop, and country strains. It is a uniquely American-made music that was forged by working-class Mexican Americans in Texas during the Late 50's."

    Banda - "In its simplest terms, banda means band in Spanish, but in music industry usage it typically refers to the big brassy bands that originated from the northern Mexican state of Sinaloa, where the tradition was born. European musical customs, especially German customs, made a major impact on Mexican culture in the late 19th century. European immigrants brought along many industrial skills, as well as cultural traditions-from proper beer making to stately dancing. They also brought their brass bands. Often boasting over a dozen members, Mexico's boisterous bandas record songs in all popular Mexican styles-from cumbia to corrido, bolero to huapango."

    Conjunto - "In its purest essence, conjunto is happy dance music fueled primarily by the earthy accordion. Traditional conjunto music has a lot in common with two other original American genres-blue and zydeco. All three genres are folk-based musical forms that originated in rural, country settings from people or cultures in a distinct region of the US.

    Conjunto, which means "group" or "ensemble" in English is the folksy predecessor of the modern Tejano genre….. Conjunto is also the American equivalent of the Mexican norteno genre. The two styles are nearly identical except that norteno singer's generally have more distinct nasal qualities and Mexican accents. The basic instrumentation includes a bajo sexto, drums and, at the heart of the music, the indispensable button accordion, which defines conjunto much in the same way the fiddle might define western swing music.

    Conjunto's origins date back to the turn of the century when German and Czech immigrants first settle in Texas and northern Mexico and lived side by side with native Mexicans. All along the Texas-Mexican border musicians mixed Mexican string based rancheras with the German/Czech polkas and waltzes"

    Norteno - "In its rudimentary form, norteno (which is Spanish for northern) is the Mexican counterpart to Texas-Based conjunto music. As with conjunto, norteno has folk-based rural origins, and a genuine, traditional norteno group must have two essential elements-the accordion and the bajo sexto. Like conjunto, norteno was influenced by the introduction of the accordion and European dance forms like the waltz and Schottiche by German and Czech railroad engineers.

    A few characteristics distinguished norteno groups from their Tejano peers. Most norteno outfits, except some on the pop side, recorded story-songs known as corridos, which have fallen out of favor with modern conjuntos. However, polkas, rancheras, and cumbias were ubiquitous to both.

    To the casual fans, there is no discernable difference between the genres. But astute followers can distinguish nuances. Norteno singers typically exhibit a more pronounced Mexican accent and a pinched, nasal quality. In addition, the polka backbeat tended to be less pronounced than in Tejano music and norteno accordionist generally lent more subtlety to their riffs."

    i hope this helps....

  16. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts

    Thanks for posting the definitions.

    I'm one of those gringo fans who lumps all those styles together for the most part. Guess I should know better because I played both cajun and zydeco music for years, another pair of closely related styles that the average joe can't tell apart.

    Is Esteban "Steve" Jordan still active or popular down in Texas? He came to Boston once and gave a really burning show that first got me interested in Mexican border music. He hasn't been back since (about 20 years).
  17. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    i saw him play a couple of years ago - i think he might be getting up there in his age, but he was a force! he can play jazz tunes on a diatonic! amazing! :)

    he was also in the classic "Born in East LA" flick
  18. Taylor Livingston

    Taylor Livingston Supporting Member Commercial User

    Dec 25, 2002
    Oregon, US
    Owner, Iron Ether Electronics
    I don't want to start up a debate here over the relevance of rap music, but, IMO, speaking this way about any kind of music is seriously tacky and undermines your credibility as a fan of music. I'm always a little surprised by the lack of respect musicians afford each other.
  19. Muzique Fann

    Muzique Fann Howzit brah

    Dec 8, 2003
    Kauai, HI
    It's called Kaleefornea. You are the minority.

    no offense, it's true
  20. NJL


    Apr 12, 2002
    San Antonio
    eeh, just ignore him, most do

    johnson, ya got a PM