Music And Film

June 4, 2012

Preserving The Music of the Rio Grande Valley

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Written by: Nydia O
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Lupe Saenz, Jr.

Recently I had the opportunity of visiting with my friend Lupe Saenz, Jr. and talk about the music of the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas, it was very enlightening, I sincerely hope our readers enjoy this interview.

Lupe Saenz, Jr., of the South Texas Conjunto Association, is one of the most dedicated supporters and promoters of the Conjunto Tejano music in South Texas.  His show “Acordiones de Texas TV Show”  on public television, KMBH TV, has been on the air since 2005 while his radio program, “Nuevo Tejano Conjunto Radio Show” has aired for 4 years on KMBH public radio.

Lupe is also a strong believer in supporting Public Radio because, he says, “It is the only venue for  Conjunto Tejano music here in the Rio Grande Valley. Thus, we want to continue to support this public media as long as we can.”

When I asked him why was he so dedicated to promoting this particular genre he answered “It is a culture that is disappearing, and with it the music of the people of South Texas.  I also do this because I believe that our Tejano music is being bombarded by too much Norteño music while completely ignoring our Texas music. It sometimes seems as if we are not even here.”

A bit puzzled, I asked him what was the difference between Norteño and Tejano music?, Lupe replied, “If you are referring in the difference between Norteño and Conjunto Tejano, the difference is in the rhythm, song themes, and beat.  Some people are confused with this. Let me give you an example: both rock and roll and country music use the same instruments, correct? But are they the same music? No!  Just like Norteño and Tejano Conjunto.  Then, there is the Tejano music genre which is a style or genre that began in the 1980’s with Selena, Laura Canales, El Grupo Mazz, la Mafia, Roberto Pulido, Little Joe and many others;  both Conjunto and Tejano music of the people of South Texas;  it is not the same as the music of the people from northern Mexico. Even though we are considered the same race, our music and culture is different. This is why we need to educate the people on this music. It is important for its survival.”

Lupe is concerned about the recent acquisitions of local radio stations by large national corporations who do not see the value of the Conjunto Tejano music. “They believe in supporting Norteño and Latin music because of all the recent relocation of people from northern Mexico to the Rio Grande Valley,” Lupe said.  “I dislike the term ‘Latino’, it is too commercial and too broad. We are Hispanics not Latinos. Latino is a commercial word used by the media to group us all together. Besides did you know that there are five languages that derived from Latin?  They are Spanish, French, Italian, Rumanian and Portuguese, all of the people of these countries are “Latinos,” yet not all of them speak Spanish”.

“WE don’t  have any issues with our Mexican brothers and friends who also love Conjunto Music,” Lupe said.   Lupe believes that many people of Northern Mexico also appreciate Tejano music.  He says that he has many loyal followers of his show from all over Northern Mexico, especially those who grew up in this area listening to Conjunto Tejano. “I have lots of ‘amistades’ from Monterrey, NL who are devout Conjunto music lovers. And I know that many people in Reynosa and Matamoros who follow Conjunto music, too.”   I asked him to give me examples of today’s Tejano Conjunto musicians and he named a few: the young representatives are Ruben de la Cruz Y Su Conjunto, Ricky Naranjo Y Los Gamblers,  Lazaro Perez Y Su Conjunto, Los Tejano Boys, etc; the older ones being Gilberto Perez Y Sus Compadres, Los Dos Gilbertos, Mingo Saldivar, Los Fantasmas del Valle, Flaco Jimenez,  etc.”

Then I asked about Norteño bands and he named Los Intocables, Michael Salgado, Los Palominos and Ramon Ayala as the most popular.

When it comes to Conjunto radio, “San Antonio and Corpus Christi have at least one radio station devoted to conjunto tejano.  Here in the Rio Grande Valley, we have Public Radio and Television, but our shows only air a few hours a week. Unlike in those cities where they run Conunto music twenty four –seven,” said Lupe Saenz.

Lupe, and supporters from all over the Rio Grande Valley, recently hosted the South Texas Conjunto of the Year Music Awards show held in Mercedes, Texas.   People from all over the state participated in this awards show and we will have a chance to see it on Sunday August 21, 2011 at 7:00 pm, on KMBH Cable Channel 10, Satellite Channel 60 or 38.1 on the digital box.

When I asked him what was his biggest challenge, Lupe replied, “Since we don’t have a radio station that supports us with Conjunto music, we struggle keeping it alive in South Texas all the time. In addition, we are such a small number of doers who actually get down to work and produce this music in any way we can including radio, television, concerts and local dances, we need more people to step up and help us.”

Anyone interested in learning more about Conjunto music or joining the South Texas Conjunto Association, should log on to www.conjunto.org for information.

Enjoy the attached link on Mingo Saldivar, Pete Ibarra, David Farias, Flaco Jimenez introduced by Freddie Fender.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zc1ZXm-rFLA&feature=related

 

 

 

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About the Author

Nydia O
A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.-Maya Angelou. La Vida Valle is where I write about "la vida" my life in the Rio Grande Valley. From this bi-cultural corner on the tip of Texas, I share my poems and spiritual and travel experiences. I also blog about the arts, nature and my passion for historic preservation and architecture. But most importantly, let's talk about "la vida" - living our lives - in a vacation state of mind. Contributions and comments are always welcome .




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The Music of the Rio Grande Valley

Arhoolie Records founder Chris Strachwitz once wrote that the musical traditions of the Tejanos of South Texas were influenced by not only Mexico, but also by their Anglo- American, African-American and immigrant neighbors like...
by Nydia O
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2 Comments


  1. Juan Tejeda

    Good article. I know Lupe Saenz and I appreciate his efforts and that of the South Texas Conjunto Association to preserve and promote Conjunto Music with their radio and TV shows, and their Conjunto Hall of Fame. However, I must differ with him on some of the comments he made in the article. For one thing, Norteno and Conjunto are similar in many ways, but they differ in more significant ways than just “rhythm, song themes, and beats.” In fact, their rhythms, beats and song themes are very similar, where they differ moreso, is in the styles of accordion playing and singing, and also how Conjunto musicians integrate more blues, rock, jazz, country, etc. Another thing, rock and country don’t necessarily use the same instruments. There are certain instruments that are associated more with country music such as the fiddle and steel guitar that aren’t usually used in rock. Tejano and Conjunto music are not two different genres. In fact, Conjunto music is Tejano music also because Tejanos created it, along with the Orquesta Tejana, and the New World Corrido tradition. For me, the terms Latino and Hispanic are pretty much the same: they’re both very general and lump us all together-Mexicans, Puerto Riquenos, Cubanos,, Guatemaltecos, Peruanos, etc. All of this in the interest of educating ourselves. Gracias. Juan


  2. Polo Trejo

    Lupe has done a marvelous job in preserving conjunto music in the Rio Grande Valley, but help is indeed needed to continue preserving conjunto music all over Texas and beyond.



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