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Archivos de 1996 (starring Jennifer y Los Jetz, Los Tigres, y más)

jennifer-pena

The Regional Mexican charts of 1996 held four separate genres. One of them was the deathless norteño of Los Tigres and Los Huracanes; the other three were in various stages of decline.

The technobanda of Bandas Machos and Maguey still thrived, but in a few years would be eclipsed by acoustic banda. Helena Simonett’s book Banda lays out the commercial leapfrogging these two styles played with one another throughout the ’90s.

Tejano fans were still mourning Selena — see #7 below — but they were also welcoming newcomers like Jennifer Peña y Los Jetz (see the Pick to Click, below) and Bobby Pulido (see the terrible song right below her). There were, however, rumblings on the horizon. San Antonio and Dallas were suffering from too many Tejano bookers flooding the market, one promoter told Billboard‘s Ramiro Burr. Some bands complained that clubs were replacing live bands with DJs. Burr would spend the next several years chronicling the decline of the Tejano genre as a commercial force, though it still exists for a small but fervent fanbase.

The third synth-based style, grupo music, also still exists, but its commercial mojo would peter out more abruptly. Marco Antonio Solís had just left Los Bukis and was scoring a bunch of solo Hot Latin #1 hits that sounded way more pop than the rest of his cohort. (See #2 below.) Bronco would retire in 1997, leaving Los Temerarios and Los Mismos to care for the genre. I think. NorteñoBlog’s disinterest in grupo music remains strong and resolute.

[EDIT: I just checked and Los Temerarios were still scoring big hits in 2004, and possibly later, so maybe the petering was more gradual.]

These were the Top 15 Regional Mexican songs, as published by Billboard on November 9, 1996: Continue reading “Archivos de 1996 (starring Jennifer y Los Jetz, Los Tigres, y más)”

Money, Innovation, and Resentment: Helena Simonett’s “Banda: Mexican Musical Life Across Borders”

simonettCurrent reading on the NorteñoBlog nightstand is Helena Simonett’s 2001 book Banda: Mexican Musical Life Across Borders. Simonett is an ethnomusicologist at Vanderbilt University; she spent much of the ’90s interviewing banda musicians and fans around L.A. and northwestern Mexico. If you think back to ’90s banda — at least to the small extent that the blog has delved into it — the predominant sounds were the synth/horn combinations of technobandas like Banda Machos and Banda Maguey. They were sort of precursors to Chicago duranguense bands, with synths replacing horns and fewer members than a typical Sinaloan brass band. The venerable acoustic Banda El Recodo was respected and toured internationally through the ’90s, but it didn’t have much of a presence as pop music. Now, along with a host of other acoustic bandas, it does, and the technobanda sound has all but disappeared. One of the blog’s ongoing goals has been to learn how the current banda sound — classic acoustic brass bands playing newly written pop tunes — took over the radio.

jimenezAs told by Simonett, this history is complex, so here’s an oversimplification. For much of its early history, banda was largely confined to the state of Sinaloa in northwestern Mexico. (How it got there is a whole other story.) Mexico’s intellectual elite, centered in Mexico City, pushed mariachi as the national music of the people — it was cultivated by radio and the national government, which required mariachi bands play the capital in elegant charro costumes. Mariachi musicians still weren’t rich, but their string-based folk music was considered more noble and sophisticated than that of the bandas, even when the ensembles were playing many of the same songs. The difference? “Sinaloan intellectuals had never considered regional banda music folk music,” writes Simonett. “It was never the focus of interest, never presented as a tourist article, and never used for national political purposes… It evolved in the shadow of the periphery.”

Simonett includes an amazing 1926 article, written just a few years after the revolution, from a newspaper in Sinaloa’s port city of Mazatlán. The article’s author praises Mexican folk music because it jibes with his romantic notion of The People. (“The national soul has not yet died.”) But the guy hates banda. He writes sarcastically of its “hullaballoo”, “It sounds better to the ears standardized by the vibrating vertigo of the locomotives and electric trains and of the machinery of the factories.” Notice how Dylan Goes Electric that argument sounds: loud music that sounds like the city can’t be the authentic voice of the people! Too vulgar! Too commercial! Although I should note, banda was no more “commercial” than mariachi at that point.

Bandas would soon try to change that. Continue reading “Money, Innovation, and Resentment: Helena Simonett’s “Banda: Mexican Musical Life Across Borders””

Archivos de 1994 (now with Submarine Tracking Technology)

selena

One week in November of 1994, Billboard changed its method of charting the biggest Latin hits in the U.S. They’d been using “National Latin Radio Airplay Reports,” completed and submitted by radio programmers and presumably subject to unwelcome human error. For their November 12 issue, Billboard switched to a computerized service called Broadcast Data Systems, or BDS, which used supercool SUBMARINE TRACKING TECHNOLOGY to determine which songs got the most radio play:

The BDS system looks for an audio fingerprint — a characteristic that differentiates a song from all of the other ones that it tracks — using the same technology that was once used to track submarines.

BDS then weighs the songs differently, depending on how many people they reach:

Thus, a song that plays at 4:00 a.m. does not count as much as one played at 4:00 p.m., and a station with a large audience will influence the chart more than either a station in a smaller market or one with a specialized format that attracts less audience.

Just as when SoundScan began electronically tracking album sales, this new system of tracking led to eye-opening changes in what was hitting the charts. In Billboard‘s November 5 issue, only four songs on the Hot Latin top 10 would have been considered “regional Mexican” — on the list below, they’re the songs from Selena, Ana Gabriel, Industria Del Amor, and Banda Z. On November 12, the new improved Hot Latin chart contained 7 regional Mexican songs, and it would maintain this proportion for weeks to come. Of the regional bands propelled by BDS into the Top 10, four were nowhere to be found in the previous week’s issue: Tejano acts Los Rehenes, Sparx, and La Mafia, and norteño act Banda Machos. For whatever reason — a different balance of stations reporting, or maybe just human error — regional Mexican music had gone under-reported before BDS. The primary beneficiaries of the new submarine tracking technology were Tejano bands, but that may just be because Tejano music, led by Selena, had recently entered its boom period as the popular face of regional Mexican music.

In addition, Billboard starting running three breakout charts, based on the airplay of radio stations devoted to one particular style of Latin music: Pop, Tropical/Salsa, and Regional Mexican. Below is the (first?) Regional Mexican Top 10, from the November 12 issue of Billboard. I’ll be liberally quoting Jonathan Bogart, whose blog Bilbo’s Laptop tracks every Hot Latin #1 and explains several of these songs better than I’ve managed here.

Also, if anyone can tell me what a puchoncito is, I’d appreciate it. Continue reading “Archivos de 1994 (now with Submarine Tracking Technology)”

Archivos de 2000

rogelio martinez

Chart geeks know the story of “Macarena”‘s long climb to number one on Billboard‘s Hot 100 — this song was giving people’s cuerpos alegria for a record-breaking 33 weeks (the chafing!) before it hit the top spot, and it had to undergo remix to get there. But things move even slower on the genre charts. Chris Young’s ode to the “Voices” in his head was on the Hot Country Songs chart for almost a year, 51 weeks, before it hit #1 in 2011. And among all the Latin charts, the longest climb to #1 — 43 weeks — took place in 2000-01 on Regional Mexican Songs, with a banda cover of Shania Twain.

When Chicago’s WOJO changed its format to regional Mexican on September 25, 2000, Rogelio Martínez’s “Y Sigues Siendo Tu” was moving up at #5, but it still had more than three months to go before it’d reach the top. (It peaked at #8 on the overall Hot Latin chart, and I’m pretty sure I remember hearing it on Latin pop radio at the time, rare for banda songs.) Musically it’s really good, though you should always keep in mind that I’m a rockist gringo whose musical wheelhouse revolves around hair metal. There are some momentum-killing horn blares in the verses, but the momentum is still undeniable, and the banda achieves it by simulating a slow backbeat with the horns. The tuba is the kick drum, the soft trumpet stabs are the snare, and though they’re helped out by a subtle drum kit, the horns do most of the rhythmic work. This remains an excellent technique for bandas who want to play power ballads, as when Banda Rancho Viejo plays an Espinoza Paz song. The composite brass rhythm basically comes out sounding like “We Will Rock You.”

Springing from Wednesday’s post, these were Billboard‘s top regional Mexican songs in the issue dated Sept. 23, 2000. Besides Martínez/Twain, the pick to click is probably Límite’s “Por Encima De Todo,” a minor key Tejano cumbia with a good accordion solo and sharp singing from Alicia Villarreal.

1. “En Cada Gota de Mi Sangre” – Conjunto Primavera (#12 Hot Latin)
2. “Yo Se Que Te Acordaras” – Banda El Recodo (#13 Hot Latin)
3. “De Paisano A Paisano” – Los Tigres Del Norte (#15 Hot Latin)
4. “Eras Todo Para Mi” – Los Temerarios (#16 Hot Latin)
5. “Y Sigues Siendo Tu” – Rogelio Martinez (#10 Hot Latin)
6. “Secreto De Amor” – Joan Sebastian (#4 Hot Latin)
7. “Pa’ Que Son Pasiones” – Tiranos Del Norte (#20 Hot Latin)
8. “Por Encima De Todo” – Límite (#22 Hot Latin)
9. “Te Soñé” – El Coyote y Su Banda Tierra Santa (#23 Hot Latin) (These two words they swear to you!)
10. “A Ella” – El Poder Del Norte (#25 Hot Latin)
11. “No Puedo Olvidar Tu Voz” – El Coyote y Su Banda Tierra Santa (#27 Hot Latin)
12. “Sin Ti No Se Vivir” – Los Angeles Azules (#29 Hot Latin)
13. “Tu Y Las Nubes” – Lupillo Rivera (#30 Hot Latin)
14. “El Liston de Tu Pelo” – Los Angeles Azules
15. “Mentirosa” – Los Rieleros Del Norte (#33 Hot Latin)

… and, in at #40 on Hot Latin, it’s “Los Dos Zacatecanos” by Banda Machos.

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