Les Blank
USA 1976 | 58 Min. | 16 mm, OF

The music of the Rio Grande-Valley - some call it Con­jun­to others Tex-Mex or Música Norteña – is a strong ener­getic music, based pri­mar­i­ly on the accor­dion and the dri­ving bass of the bajo sexto a huge 12-string guitar. Blank search­es for the polit­i­cal under­tones of this music in inter­views with farm­work­ers and dis­cjock­eys thus show­ing its impor­tance in the every-day life of the people. The lyrics and dia­logues togeth­er define the Texas Chi­cano in both geo­graph­ic and emo­tion­al terms: an indi­vid­ual who calls Texas home but is caught between two worlds, between old and new traditions. 

»Norteño, usu­al­ly called Con­jun­to or Tex-Mex music on the Amer­i­can side of the border, has evolved since the early 1900s into the last Mex­i­can region­al style and per­haps the most influ­en­tial and unique­ly Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can tra­di­tion. Today, as one of the main roots of Tejano Music, Norteño/Conjunto is imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­niz­able by the accor­dion as the lead instru­ment accom­pa­ny­ing tra­di­tion­al Mex­i­can duet singing. The dia­ton­ic, button accor­dion, first devel­oped and mass-pro­duced in Ger­many in the middle of the 19th cen­tu­ry, made its appear­ance in the Texas-Mex­i­can border region before the turn of the cen­tu­ry. The instru­ment was well dis­trib­uted in the north­east of Mexico and in south Texas, due to the large influx of cen­tral Euro­peans in that region. The rugged little black box quick­ly became pop­u­lar, espe­cial­ly with rural musi­cians and dancers. In addi­tion, the usual con­jun­to norteño also includes a bajo sexto (solid­ly built 12-string guitar), a contra-bajo or string bass (today usu­al­ly an elec­tric one), drums, and some­times an alto sax­o­phone. As it has been for almost a cen­tu­ry, Música Norteña is still widely pop­u­lar, espe­cial­ly among agri­cul­tur­al and blue collar work­ers. The music rep­re­sents a cul­tur­al trea­sure trove with its great vari­ety of rural dances such as the polka, waltz, redova, mazur­ka, hua­pan­go, scho­tish, cumbia, danzón etc. It also offers a huge reper­toire of songs and types, rang­ing from rancheras to boleros, to a sur­pris­ing number of often pow­er­ful protest bal­lads (story songs) known as Cor­ri­dos or Trage­dias (…) Today’s Tejano Music embraces plenty of grupos, solo singers, trios, mari­achis, bandas, string ensem­bles, as well as a great vari­ety of orches­tras, some or all of which incor­po­rate ele­ments of Norteño, the mother tra­di­tion (…).« (Chris Stra­ch­witz, 1995)