MUSICAL STYLE

Conjunto

The generic meaning of the Spanish word conjunto is “musical group,” but in Texas it refers specifically to a working class accordion music that emerged as a distinctive style in the border region in the early 20th century.

Accordionists like Narciso Martinez in the 1930s, Santiago Jimenez (father of popular Tejano musician Flaco Jimenez) in the 1940s, and Paulino Bernal in the 1950s, innovated and developed the genre and brought it to a wider American audience.  By the 1960s the conjunto tejano featured a standard instrumentation of three-row button accordion, double bass (or tololoche, as tejanos call it), drum set, and bajo sexto (a distinctive type of twelve-string guitar).  San Antonio's Eva Ybarra, the "Queen of the Accordion," is one of the contemporary ambassadors of the genre, having enjoyed a successful career from the 1970s to the present.

Texas conjunto was a forefather of the Tejano style. Conjunto remains popular in Texas today, but its influence has also spread through recordings and through the travels of migrant workers as far away as Washington, D.C. and northern California, a testament to the music’s working-class themes danceable rhythms. According to anthropologist Manuel Peña, “conjunto continues to represent an alternative musical ideology, and in this way it helps to preserve a Mexican, working-class culture wherever it takes root on American soil.”

 

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