Juan Tejeda is an ethnomusicologist, professor, and co-founder of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center’s annual Conjunto Festival.
This piece ws originally published in the San Antonio Report. The photo is by Al Rendon, the words are by Juan Tejeda.
The elements of Conjunto are the button accordion, which comes from the German/East European traditions that settled into Texas in the 19th century. Once we combined the button accordion and its rhythms with the Spanish/Mexican baxo sexto (a 12-string Spanish-style guitar), it was the beginning of a new American original ensemble and style of music that we call here in Texas Conjunto. People in Northern Mexico just call it Norteño music, which just means “Northern” in Spanish. The other two essential instruments in a Conjunto ensemble are the bass and the drums.
With the button accordion, we borrowed polkas, waltzes, schottisches and redovas from the German tradition, combining it with the Mexican baxo sexto guitar and some of the indigenous rhythms, such as the huapango from the Huazteca (Aztec) region, very staccato/percussive dance form and rhythm. Then we combined it with an international repertoire – we borrowed the cumbia from the Colombians, the bolero from the Cubans; being Mexicans from the United States, or Xicanos, we added the American influences – blues, jazz, rock, country – we borrowed from the Cajun/Zydeco accordion cousins to the east of us from Louisiana. So we have an international repertoire, really world music, that we combined with our Conjunto/Tejano experience and style to create something unique and original.