Norteño (music)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Norteño (meaning "northern" in Spanish; also known as norteña or conjunto) is a genre of Mexican music. The accordion and the bajo sexto are norteño's most characteristic instruments. The norteño genre is popular in both Mexico and the United States, especially among the Mexican community. Though originating from rural areas, norteño is popular in urban as well as rural areas.

Some popular norteño artists include Intocable, Ramón Ayala, Los Cadetes de Linares, Flaco Jiménez, Los Tigres del Norte, Los Huracanes del Norte, Los Tucanes De Tijuana, and Los Invasores De Nuevo Leon. Thanks to the popularity of radio stations playing regional Mexican music, many norteño artists have become widely popular among the Mexican-American community. Local radio stations have continued to be a major influence in popularizing norteño.




During the late 19th century, German and Czech migrants to Northern Mexico and the U.S. Southwest brought different styles among them: la redova, la varsoviana and the polka. These European immigrants fueled the demand for a local brewing industry, and they also influenced the music scene by bringing the accordion, waltz, and polka, which were part of the popular music of their homeland. Soon, local bands adopted these elements, and a new unique style gradually resulted from a blend with Mexican ranchera styles. This new style soon became a unique norteño genre, thus named because it was primarily popular in the northern regions of Mexico.

In the late 1910s and 1920s, the corridos entered a golden age when Mexicans on both sides of the border recorded in San Antonio-area hotels, revolutionizing the genre alongside Mexico's political revolution. Later in the century, Ramón Ayala, Cornelio Reyna, Los Invasores de Nuevo Leon, and Carlos y Jose commercialized Northern music. Other bands such as Los Tigres del Norte and Los Cadetes de Linares added influences from cumbia, rock music, and other new styles, thus creating a unique new blend in some of their new songs.

Norteño vs. Tejano

In the 1950s, the heavy influence of Norteño on the traditional music of Mexican-Americans in southern Texas gave rise to a new form of popular music, called Tejano or "Tex-Mex", which is often influenced by American rock and swing. Tejano music often includes English and may sound much more like American rock and country music, but is a broad genre of music incorporating many different styles, all having origin in traditional Texas Mexican music.

However, because Tejano music is derived from Norteño music the two are often confused as different names for the same genre. Though Norteño came first, Tejano music is a norteño-derived genre and is not the same as norteño. [* [1] The difference is easily heard in two different performances of the song "El Disgusto." Eddie Gonzalez is typical of Tejano music, while Ramón Ayala is typical of norteño music. Note that the Tejano style typical of Eddie Gonzalez's music is heavily influenced by American country music and jazz, while Ramón Ayala's music sounds much less Americanized and more rural and traditional.

Modernization of norteño

Modern norteño has also diverged significantly from more original "oldie" norteño, which was the type played by Jímenez and related groups before the 1950s. Since the 1970s and 1980s, electric bass guitars and modern percussion have been added to norteño music. The traditional guitar-and-accordion style of Los Alegres de Terán and Antonio Aguilar transformed into the modern style typical to that of Los Tigres del Norte, Intocable, Duelo, Nocion Del Tiempo and Oro Norteño. In the past, norteño bands consisted of an accordion as the lead instrument, with the bajo sextos (a type of 12-string Mexican guitar) serving as the roots of the music. Today, a typical norteño band usually includes a drum set, and a saxophone or electronic keyboard may also be included. (Un Puno De Tierra Ramon Ayala y sus Bravos del Norte)

Norteño became even more popular in the 1990s and 2000s in the United States as the Latino-American community increased rapidly. Norteño continues to be one of the most popular types of modern Mexican music today, but it is also gaining rapid popularity in the United States. Many of the most famous Mexican bands such as Ramón Ayala y sus Bravos del Norte,Pesado and Intocable are all based in the United States with American labels, and their music is usually recorded and produced within the United States. Intocable are the leaders in norteño music today, they have fused norteño, tejano and country into the future of the genre. In an era where groups are born and die out after an album or two Intocable has stayed afloat for fifteen years, by evolving with every album. This trend follows the rapid integration of Mexican-American immigrants into the United States. As norteño music is increasingly becoming integrated into American society, norteño, banda, and duranguense are not only Mexican music but also, to some extent, music of the United States.


Distinguishable features of norteño include use of the button accordion and bajo sexto. The rhythm is usually steady and can be middle or fast tempo. Norteño is a style of Mexican country music and thus has a more rural sound. Some artists like Ramón Ayala may sound older and more traditional, while others such as Oro Norteño and Los Dueto Voces del Rancho have a rowdier style and stronger beat. Besides the typical instrumentation, norteño music, as well as many other forms of traditional Mexican music, is also noted for the grito mexicano, a yell that is done at musical interludes within a song, either by the musicians and/or the listening audience.

Genres similar to norteño include banda and duranguense. Banda and duranguense bands have almost entirely brass instruments instead of accordions and guitars. However, banda and duranguense often play the same songs that norteño bands play, and they have the same steady beat of norteño. Lyrics and artist names are also similar.

Because many of these band names contain Mexican state names or a general geographical description (e.g., "de la Sierra"), norteño, banda, duranguense, and other similar genres can be classified into a category known as "regional Mexican music." Also, norteño is a border-type music, which is why many norteño groups choose to attach "del Norte" to their group names.

The sound of norteño

See also: Regional styles of Mexican music

Norteño has many different regional styles. Norteño in Texas, for example, is very likely to be influenced by American music, while norteña from Tijuana and Tamaulipas may sometimes have influences from the Caribbean. Durango and Sinaloa have also produced norteña bands, even though the two states are more closely associated with the musical style of banda music (or duranguense). Chihuahua and Zacatecas norteño often incorporates the saxophone into their bands, creating a saxophone-accordion duet. Additionally, norteña music from Guanajuato and Chiapas sometimes employs synthetic marimbas in their music instead of the usual accordion.

Each norteño band also has its own unique adorno (music which interrupts the lyrical lines in between). For example, one of Los Tigres del Norte's adornos is a series of flutters, while Los Rieleros del Norte's adornos are characterized by descending scales.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Norteño (music)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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