With the soundtrack for your early morning, which arrives from the Rio Grande Valley. This is a geographically and culturally unique part of Texas – in fact, it really is substantially Mexican as Texan. And it does have its very own soundtrack, songs termed conjunto. It is really a century outdated. And it is a thumping backbeat and shimmering accordion. You know, why am I describing it? Let us pay attention. This is John Burnett.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: If you want the new music to endure, teach it to the kids. Which is what they’re carrying out in significant universities throughout the Rio Grande Valley.

JUAN LONGORIA JR: A person, two…

(SOUNDBITE OF New music)

BURNETT: Below in the band hall at Los Fresnos Substantial College in the southernmost tip of Texas, the award-profitable college student ensemble, Conjunto Halcon, is sharpening a music for an approaching levels of competition.

LONGORIA: Do it yet again more challenging.

Unknown Scholar: (Vocalizing).

LONGORIA: But you didn’t do the filter, right? Yeah?

BURNETT: Looking sharp onstage in maroon coats, black cowboy hats and boots, Conjunto Halcon has been the winningest college student ensemble in the Valley, which signifies it is really the greatest in The usa.

LONGORIA: One, two…


BURNETT: The director is Juan Longoria Jr., 44, a renowned accordionist in his individual suitable. He began the system in this article at Los Fresnos a 10 years in the past with 13 college students. Final semester, he experienced 100.

LONGORIA: We function with drums, bass, bajo quinto, bajo sexto, accordion, vocalist. We are going to include at times a saxophone, the congas as perfectly. For the most aspect, it really is rather substantially regular conjunto, norteno, Tejano songs.

BURNETT: Conjunto, norteno, Tejano – each and every one particular is a branch of the same musical tree. It is a danceable fusion of Mexican, European and American tune kinds that formulated in South Texas and northern Mexico more than the last 150 several years. The accordion impact arrived from the polka bands of Czech, Polish and German immigrants. Today, conjunto is as common in the Rio Grande Valley as the spindly palm trees, flocks of environmentally friendly parakeets and orchards of ruby purple grapefruit.


BURNETT: Like the blues and bluegrass, conjunto is the audio of performing individuals, the audio of day-to-day everyday living.

LONGORIA: It can be dance music. You have to sense that thump. You have to feel that want to get up and dance. And, you know, it really is joyful music.

BURNETT: Conjunto systems have popped up in at the very least a dozen educational facilities in the Valley from Los Fresnos, up the Rio Grande to Roma and as far north as San Antonio. Although college students can generate good arts credits, just like they do with marching band or mariachi, conjunto competitions are not still sanctioned by the College Interscholastic League. Juan Longoria says conjunto is handled like a stepchild.

LONGORIA: To some men and women, conjunto tunes, it truly is not real audio due to the fact it really is not in paper. They don’t see it as tunes mainly because there is no sheet tunes involved.

BURNETT: Modern conjunto is getting mashed up with hip-hop and reggaeton, and its recognition is spreading to Spanish-speaking neighborhoods significantly and extensive. Longoria has introduced some modern influences, but he tries to preserve it conventional. And the college students look to like it that way.

ILIANA AGUILAR: It’s like a variation of distinct kinds. There is huapangos. There’s cumbias. You will find polkas. You know, it is all just, like, a Mexican – Tex-Mex form of design and style.

BURNETT: Iliana Aguilar is an 18-yr-previous bass player. Her father performed conjunto, as did her granddaddy. She plans to be a radiologist but maintain performing this new music that is in her coronary heart.

AGUILAR: I really feel like I’m using portion in my tradition. And I sense like I can exhibit, like, portion of myself in the new music. And so it really is just a genuinely awesome variety of outlet to demonstrate my ethnicity.

BURNETT: A few miles from Los Fresnos is the town of San Benito that calls alone the birthplace of conjunto.


BURNETT: The legendary Mexican acordeonista Narciso Martinez, regarded as the father of Tex-Mex conjunto, grew up nearby. This is a single of the tracks he recorded for Bluebird Records in a San Antonio lodge home in the 1930s.


BURNETT: San Benito not long ago opened the Texas Conjunto Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the only just one of its variety. It truly is loaded with artifacts collected by the late lifelong conjunto fanatic Ray Avila. For instance, there’s a recreation of Excellent Documents, the seminal recording studio in San Benito exactly where early conjunto heroes minimize their first data again in the ’40s and ’50s. Avila’s daughter, Patty, runs the museum.

PATTY AVILA: This place below is the Corridor of Fame space. The – most pioneers are in this area. We have Roberto G. Perez. We have Tony de la Rosa, Valerio Longoria.

BURNETT: The museum celebrates the audio born a hundred several years back in the cantinas and dance halls throughout the valley, but it truly is something but museum new music. Conjunto has by no means been extra well-liked. Avila says she hears it everywhere you go – on the radio and at quinceaneras and weddings.

AVILA: And it really is just a lively form of songs, has a great deal of feelings, you know, the unfortunate tales, the satisfied stories. It just touches your coronary heart. And I think which is why my father, Ray Avila, just preferred to maintain that music and continue to keep it alive for the young technology.

(SOUNDBITE OF New music)

BURNETT: Which is 36-year-previous Elisa de Hoyas on the squeezebox. She and her spouse and children band, The Texas Sweethearts, gave an impromptu live performance at the Conjunto Museum. As an accordion trainer, she suggests the instrument has gained a sort of cult pursuing among younger persons, propelled by the school conjunto courses, social media and competitions. De Hoyas, with her blue-streaked hair and incandescent smile, is a charismatic performer. She seems to be to the meaning of the Spanish phrase conjunto.

ELISA DE HOYAS: Conjunto, collectively. Conjunto, with each other – the sort of new music you can do when you get together. That is what I want individuals to know, that it is a society-prosperous, loving and storytelling tunes. We want to hold it going. I think that’s what the stunning portion of it is.

BURNETT: As it occurs, the recent grand winner of the 2023 Major Squeeze Contest, a statewide accordion competition, was 20-12 months-outdated Eligio Martinez. The place did he get his commence? – the varsity conjunto band at Los Fresnos Substantial University.


DE HOYAS: (Talking Spanish).

BURNETT: For NPR Information, I’m John Burnett in San Benito, Texas.


DE HOYAS: (Talking Spanish).

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