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2019

Joni Sandez on sierreño, “Las Mañanitas,” and “secrets nobody wants to say”

joni sandez

“The producer listening is probably gonna hate me — like, ‘No, don’t say that!'”

el tiempoJoni Sandez is joking, but he’s eager to talk about parts of the norteño recording process usually kept under wraps. He knows from experience. A lifelong resident of southern California, Jonathan Sandez, 26, grew up playing guitar and bass. At 14 he joined the long-running L.A.-based Grupo El Tiempo, playing bass and singing backup amid a synthesized sound rooted in the ’80s and early ’90s. “Modern Tejano, grupero, norteño music,” he explains. “They had accordion, but the accordion was actually in the keyboard.”

Going solo as a bandleader, Sandez has pursued a more acoustic direction. He plays concerts, festivals, and private parties with norteño groups, up to five shows a night. One New Years Eve he played for 12 hours and was still able to sing at the end. He’s justifiably proud of this.

Like many young musicians, his recent music has been mostly sierreño — two guitars and a bass. His latest single is straight out of the Great Ranchera Songbook: “Las Mañanitas,” a fond birthday wish sung by everyone from Vicente Fernandez to Javier Solís to Los Tigres. With his bassist’s ear, Sandez has added some smooth walking chromaticism to the bottom end, a sound you won’t find in most oom-pah-pah I-IV-V versions.

During our 45-minute phone conversation (edited for length), Sandez told the Blog about making the switch to sierreño, the differences between tuba- and bass-bottomed music, and some lesser known tricks of the trade — “those hidden little secrets that nobody wants to say.” Follow “jonisandez” on Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube, and check out his website.

NorteñoBlog: Why did you start recording sierreño music?
Joni Sandez: It went back to my roots. The style of guitar was what I used to do, which was requinto. You know, all those tremolo-sounding riffs and terceras — two notes at a time, three half steps apart — and sextas, six steps apart. It was what I was playing back then, and most of the shows that we go to, they wanna hear that 12-string guitar. When you hear sierreño, you’ll hear the terceras — you won’t hear just one note, [he sings, outlining a triad] “dun dun dun dun dun”, you’ll hear [outinling the same triad] “drun drun drun drun drun.” It’s really subtle, too. A lot of people of people who aren’t familiar with the music won’t know about that. That makes it sierreña, you know?

Is that you playing requinto on your recordings?
Yes. Once in a while I’ll have somebody come through. It’s more having a little bit of variety — everybody has their own style of playing, and if it’s always me on the tracks, it becomes a little bit too played out. All the bass is me, but on the requinto I’ll try to have somebody come in and put in a couple of fill-ins for the track.

How did you decide to record “Las Mañanitas”?
There weren’t really a lot of modern artists, in general, and not even one sierreño artist [has recorded it]. It’s such a classic. [My version is] very different, in terms of the rhythm — the rhythm is not the traditional sierreño, it’s a descending little pattern. I really like it a lot.

Why do you think sierreño has gotten so popular in the last three or four years?
In the scene, when you have an accordion player, usually the accordion player charges a lot of money to play with you. I think a lot of people started recording sierreño tracks because it’s a lot cheaper. It’s one of those things that probably nobody wants to talk about, one of those hidden little secrets that nobody wants to say. When you record a sierreño track it’s a lot quicker, a lot faster, because you already have a guitar there. If you wanna have a norteño, then you have drums, and you wanna have an accordion, and you wanna have a bajo quinto, which is a little more expensive than a natural guitar. In sierreño you need a bass and a 12-string guitar, that’s basically it. And a six-string guitar. If you want, you can even play sierreño with six strings, which is kind of how it all got started.

Do you prefer having a sierreño band with a bassist or with a tubist?
Continue reading “Joni Sandez on sierreño, “Las Mañanitas,” and “secrets nobody wants to say””

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Desfile de Éxitos 1/19/19

t3r airport

Puerto Rican trapstar Bad Bunny has pulled a Drake this week, clogging up Billboard‘s Hot Latin chart with 10 tracks from his debut album X 100pre. (The highest charting is, whaddya know, a duet with Drake.) NorteñoBlog has long admired Sr. Bunny’s charisma and barber while having almost no use for his music. The greatest insult? He’s Despacitoing norteño music into near nonexistence on Hot Latin. Regional Mexican acts account for only nine of the top 50 songs, one less than Bunny himself. The Blog tells you all this to explain why our Desfile de Éxitos format has changed. You can only type “Bad Bunny” so many times before the Donnie Darko flashbacks become too intense to deal with.

What follows are three mini-lists. First up are the three regional Mexican songs that appear only on the Hot Latin chart, i.e. not on Billboard‘s Regional Mexican Songs radio chart. As you’d expect, since radio factors less into their success, these three songs all have enormous YouTube streaming numbers. As you might not expect, they’re all by sierreño bands. One possible conclusion: sierreño is for cool internet kids. The next list is the Regional Mexican radio top 10: mostly banda, a couple cumbias, and one apiece of sierreño and mariacheño. The third list — of one song this week — is music outside the radio Top 10 that also appears on Hot Latin.

ONLY ON HOT LATIN

fuerza regidaFuerza Regida“Radicamos En South Central” (#32 Hot Latin)
This sierreño gangsta nonsense is one high-living negocios signifier after another — I count appearances from Compas Tino and Chino, a bottle of Buchanan’s, and an X6 and a white Corvette, along with some good old-fashioned cocaine. The band is really good at switching from midtempo waltz to fast waltz on a dime, so that’s something. Now if they just learned to add backup vocals to their product placements, maybe they wouldn’t sound like they’re trapped in a cement bunker, playing under threat of torture. NO VALE LA PENA

t3r gerardoT3R Elemento ft. Gerardo Ortiz“Aerolinea Carrillo” (#33 Hot Latin)
The lead track from T3R’s 2018 album The Green Trip is ostensibly an ode to Pablo Escobar and his well-structured airborne narcotics business. It’s actually an ode to how cool it is to get high on a plane and sing about gangster shit. In the video, Kristopher Nava, the McLovin’ of the corridos verdes movimiento, chills in an airport lounge wearing a t-shirt that reads “Cookies” and refusing to enunciate. Sergio Cardenas, the band’s Cuban bassist, harmonizes beside him. Gerardo Ortiz plays a commercial airline pilot who smokes up in the cockpit and over-enunciates, well aware of the lurid cargo he’s transporting in his plane’s overhead compartments. Everyone nods a lot. Unlike Fuerza Regida, everyone here is in a good mood and knows the song they’re playing is patently dopey. VALE LA PENA y PICK TO CLICK

arrankeGrupo Arranke“A Través del Vaso” (#39 Hot Latin)
“Una Para Mi Chiquitita (y Una Más Para My Sad Cowboy Hat That Reeks of Authenticity, Even Though My Song Comes From the Horacio Palencia Song Factory)” (Sierreño Versión)
NO VALE LA PENA

TOP 10 REGIONAL MEXICAN SONGS

1. Christian Nodal“No Te Contaron Mal” (#11 Hot Latin)

2. Los Angeles Azules ft. Natalia LaFourcade“Nunca Es Suficiente” (#9 Hot Latin)

3. Regulo Caro“El Lujo de Tenerte” (#35 Hot Latin)

4. Banda El Recodo ft. David Bisbal“Gracias Por Tu Amor” (#44 Hot Latin)

sebastianes5. Banda Los Sebastianes“A Través del Vaso” (#14 Hot Latin)
“Una Para Mi Chiquitita (y Una Más Para the Underwear Models in the Video)” (Banda Versión)
VALE LA PENA

virlan garcia6. Virlán Garcia“Quiero Reintentarlo”
Virlán is horny as all get out, so it took an unusual triumph of will for him to keep this from becoming a slow jam. His sierreño band skips along, jaunty and desperate. Congas burble and the tuba line snaps at Virlán’s promises to kiss every corner of your body. VALE LA PENA

7. Banda MS“Mejor Me Alejo” (#25 Hot Latin)

8. Raymix“¿Dónde Estarás?”

9. El Fantasma“Dolor y Amor”

10. Banda Los Recoditos“Te Darán Ganas de Verme”

ALSO ON BOTH CHARTS

calibre14. Calibre 50“¿Por Qué Cambiaste De Opinión?” (#50 Hot Latin)
Exactly what you expect from a Calibre ballad: a death march of self-righteous indignation aimed at a fickle mujer, from the dudes who just humble-bragged about going “Mitad y Mitad” with two different women. With his fondness for six-syllable rhymes, Edén Muñoz delights in language more than most of his songwriting cohort, and “No vayas a llorar, que nadie te va abrazar” is a cold kiss-off — but their self pity is dull enough without the band deflating before your ears. NO VALE LA PENA

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