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La Maquinaria Norteña

Yo Quiero Tu Saxo (julio 2016)

en que falle

nortenos de ojinagaIt is the longstanding position of NorteñoBlog that the puro sax styles of Chihuahua and Zacatecas would improve with the addition of more terrible “sax” puns in the titles. From the fabled Chihuahuan city of Ojinaga — home to El Zorro de Ojinaga, La Fiera de Ojinaga, Capitanes de Ojinaga, El Deshollinador de Ojinaga, you name it — come Norteños de Ojinaga, a saxy quintet-or-sextet whose latest album for the Discos America label is their lucky umpteenth. It’s called Besos Nuevos (proposed subtitle: … y Saxo Oral!!! ), and it seems pretty pro-forma as far as Chihuahuan sax albums go. Sadsack lead single “Tus Mentiras” (alternate title: “Saxo, Mentiras, y Videocinta”) runs over four minutes, which feels like an eternity in puro sax world, possibly because the rhythm section’s oompah seems to be slowing down as they play. A neat formal experiment with time? Maybe, but it violates the first law of puro sax music: get in, get out, leave ’em wanting more, and, for heaven’s sake, remember what genre you’re in. This is no place to get emo!

reunion nortenaNext up is La Reunion Norteña, who formed in Chihuahua but whose members also hail from neighboring states Durango and Texas. (Thom Jurek wrote a thorough bio at Allmusic.) Their seventh album in as many years, Historias de Amor en Canciones (alternate title: Historia de la Saxualidad Humana), is out on Azteca Records, a Dallas label that knows its way around the puro sax world. La Reunion’s labelmates include La Maquinaria Norteña, who stand astride this genre like saxophone colossi, having recently been Grammy nominated for one of 2015’s best albums. On first listen, Historias is in Maquinaria’s league — the bouncy riffs never let up and frontman Rogelio Martinez sings with relaxed authority and an chivalrous quiver in his throat. He might fail at love (“En Qué Fallé,” aka “Fracaso Saxual”), but if he does he will apologize (“Te Pido Perdón”… i.e.,”Por Mi Fracaso Saxual”), and then he and the band will salve your pain with a big dumb cumbia like “Ahora Sí Baila El Muñeco,” this week’s Pick to Click. (“Ahora Baila Con Esto Muñeco Saxual”? Nonono.)

Continue reading “Yo Quiero Tu Saxo (julio 2016)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 2/16/16

lafourcade

First off, NorteñoBlog congratulates friends of the blog Los Tigres, Natalia Lafourcade, and most charming man alive Pitbull on their recent Grammy wins. Los Tigres’ very good Realidades won for “Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano),” a category that included no Tejano albums but whose name testifies to the lingering power of the Tejano voting bloc. Or at least to the outspoken crankiness of the Tejano voting bloc. (I assume there’s still a Tejano voting bloc.) Lafourcade’s fine Hasta La Raíz tied with Pitty Wap’s intermittently banging Dale for “Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album.” NorteñoBlog woulda picked Maquinaria Norteña for Regional and Bomba Estéreo for Rock/Urban/Alternative — after all, the Bombas excel in all three areas — but these were still respectable and relevant choices.

Next, NorteñoBlog congratulates Espinoza Paz for writing lots of decent, non-sappy songs recently. Paz is capable of biting hilarity — see Marco Flores’s “El Pajarito” and Los Horóscopos’ “Estoy Con Otro En La Cama.” He can also concoct musical experiments that look deceptively simple, like Arrolladora’s “Cabecita Dura” — 120 straight syllables without pause or apparent breath! — and straight up banda bangers like Roberto Tapia’s new single “Vale La Pena.” (That video seems to have fallen off a truck, so watch it while you can.) Back in 2009, after he’d won his second straight BMI songwriter of the year award, Billboard‘s Leila Cobo interviewed Paz, a former migrant worker who doesn’t read music.

Cobo: How would you describe your music?

Paz: Commercial.

True enough; and like most professionals he’s had some bad days at the office, especially in solo work like “Sin Esencia,” a pensive smell-the-fart guitar ballad. Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 2/16/16”

Lo Mejor de 2015: Maquinaria Norteña and Laura Denisse

laura denisse horse

la-maquinaria-norteña-ya-dime-adiós[2]Back in September, NorteñoBlog gave short shrift to the eighth (I think) album by La Maquinaria Norteña, Ya Dime Adiós (Azteca/Fonovisa). I thought they were energetic but generic, low on hooks, just one damn sax-and-accordion polka after another. How short was my shrift? My shrift was short enough that it could have been any random Maquinaria song, which tend to run out of steam after about two and a half minutes — with the notable exception of “No Sé Cómo Hacerlo,” which beefs its running time to three and a half minutes by throwing in a snippet of Super Mario Brothers music at the end.

And right there, amid Koji Kondo’s well-known arpeggios, lies everything I got wrong about Maquinaria in the first place. These guys know their subgenre — the puro sax music of Zacatecas and Chihuahua — is a little ridiculous. They know that when a sax and an accordion harmonize over polka beats, the results sound like skippy video game music. To counter this, they wink at their Super Mario-loving audience but, more importantly, they never let up. Maquinaria might not be the hardest working band in the puro sax game, but they sure sound like they are. They’re wilder and grittier than most of their peers. The lead instruments tug against the beat more and leave fewer empty spaces, and at the end of those 150 seconds of pleasure, everyone sounds spent.

Maquinaria Norteña: Su saxo está breve, pero es VALE LA PENA. Continue reading “Lo Mejor de 2015: Maquinaria Norteña and Laura Denisse”

Fiesta de Aniversario: THE PICKS TO CLICK

gerardo birthday

NorteñoBlog doesn’t always Pick to Click, but when I do… sometimes I get it wrong and type “Click to Pick.” This made searching for the previous year’s worth of Picks INTERESANTE.

The Pick to Click began as a shameless ripoff from Charles Pierce’s must-read liberal politics blog at Esquire, as did a couple other, possibly subtler NorteñoBlog tics. (Spot them all! Both! Whatever!) It’s a useful way to highlight the song I enjoy the most in a particular post, so that you the loyal reader don’t have to wade through a pool of Banda MS’s tears to reach the good stuff. Of course, if you enjoy the delectable bouquet wafting from Banda MS’s tears, you can always Click what I don’t Pick, though you’ll run the risk of turning Banda MS happy and then they might run out of Art. Besides current singles, the following list includes some older singles and current album tracks.

Most Picked at three apiece: NorteñoBlog’s probable artists of the year Alfredo Ríos “El Komander” and Marco Flores y #1 Banda Jerez. Banda Cuisillos, Noel Torres, and Chuy Lizárraga each scored two Picks. So did Los Gfez, Pancho Uresti, and Ariel Camacho, though one Pick from each of those three was in a “featured” role. Besides norteño and banda, the list includes cumbias and puro sax stomps, reggaeton and ABBA-schlager, Jenny and the Mexicats and Pitbull, and covers of Johnny Cash and — first up — Shania Twain. Happy Clicking!
Continue reading “Fiesta de Aniversario: THE PICKS TO CLICK”

¡Nuevo! (starring Maquinaria Norteña, Los Horóscopos, y más)

puro sax maquinaria

maquinaria nortenaIt is the longstanding position of NorteñoBlog that the puro sax styles of Chihuahua and Zacatecas would improve with the addition of more terrible “sax” puns in the titles. This week the máquinas de saxo in La Maquinaria Norteña drop their eighth (I think) album, Ya Dime Adiós (Azteca/Fonovisa) (alternate title: Break Up Saxo), from whence comes their top 10 airplay hit “Para Qué Amarte.” Maquinaria hail from both Chihuahua AND Zacatecas, doubling their potential fan base, and they’re solid and reliable polkaderos with a really good logo. On first listen, though, this album isn’t saxing it up for me like the next one:

dimeloThe puro Zacatecans in La Inquietud Norteña venture into minor key territory for the title single to their latest album, Dimelo (AGLive) (alt title: Vamos a Hablar Sobre el Saxo). Singer Hugo Avellaneda wails high and clear, sax and accordion skate across the song with as little apparent effort as spinning Olympians, and whoever’s playing the polka bass gets his R&B licks in. Pick to Click!

Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (starring Maquinaria Norteña, Los Horóscopos, y más)”

Desfile de Éxitos 9/26/15

roberto tapia

ROBERTO TAPIA GRAPPLES WITH FEELINGS, FENG SHUI ON BEACH:

If you’ve hung around NorteñoBlog for very long, you’ll know that when I fall for a Roberto Tapia banda single, I fall hard. So it is with his new tune “No Valoraste” — the waltz beat is stiffer than his previous “Me Enamoré” and “Mirando Al Cielo,” but the high-climbing melody sounds great in his upper range. Along with Friday’s brand new video, and having heard it on the radio a couple times last week, “No Valoraste” shoots into Pick to Click status. And by all means watch that video: it’s like Ingmar Bergman shot a novela on the beach using the castoff furniture from Return to Oz. See Tapia and his ex-mujer stalk one another in symbolically opposing color schemes, as they seek cold comfort from an absent God and/or Princess Ozma.

Tapia’s at #4 on the airplay chart, so the streams racked up by this new video should propel him onto the big Hot Latin chart next week.

ADRIEL FAVELA WALKS THE BOOTY BEAT:
Continue reading “Desfile de Éxitos 9/26/15”

NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2015: Enero – Marzo

marco flores

As you listen to this Youtube playlist, imagine a Regional Mexican station that plays not just regional styles, but disco-fied international variations on those styles. Weirdly enough, the disco-mariachi songs here, while great, are far from the most danceable songs on the list. If you don’t believe me, check out the top video, where Marco Flores and his band create a barrage of anarchic polka moves, including Hiding Behind the Congas, for their banda-fied take on the Zacatecas state’s tamborazo music. Colmillo Norteño aren’t quite as terpsichorially ambitious with the waltz at #2, but they’ve still got moves.

You could call these the year’s best regional Mexican singles, but there’s a catch. “Regional Mexican” here includes Mexicans and non-Mexicans playing their takes on regional styles — norteño, banda, mariachi, and cumbia (not native to Mexico, but nation and format have embraced it), along with minor styles like Tejano, tierra caliente, and duranguense, if we’d found any. It doesn’t include Mexicans playing pop, although most of these songs register for listeners as pop songs. It also doesn’t include any Latinos playing reggaeton, bachata, or salsa, though NorteñoBlog broke that rule last year when Gerardo Ortiz released a full-throated bachata song.

Maybe not so weirdly, this list’s Venn diagram circle for “international interlopers” — Natalia Jiménez, Rocio Quiroz, Jenny and the Mexicats, and Shalia Dúrcal — overlaps perfectly with the circle for “women.” It’s not that women can’t make great music that’s puro Mexicano; after all, we’re observing the 20th anniversary of Selena’s death, the 10th anniversary of Yolanda Perez’s fantastic Esto Es Amor album, and also check out NorteñoBlog’s best of 2014 list. But in the recently dominant styles of norteño and banda, the male gaze and traditional, possibly smothering, notions of chivalry predominate. Women in song lyrics often have the upper hand over their hapless male counterparts — see the hilarious video for “Adicto a La Tristeza” — but the hapless males still make most of the music and money. Though she’s not on this list, check out América Sierra’s “Ponte Las Pilas” for a refreshing exception — she also wrote Ortiz’s latest single, “Perdoname” — and keep your eye on her this year. In the meantime…

1. Marco Flores y La Número 1 Banda Jerez“El Pajarito” (Remex)
We’ve admired before the vitality of Marco Flores‘s dance moves and his voice, a gallo-rific crow that cuts through anything in its path. His take on Espinoza Paz’s “El Pajarito” comes in versions both “sin censura” and, presumably, censura.
Mexican radio hit

2. Colmillo Norteño“La Plebona” (Remex)
A demented rapid-fire circus parade waltz — you like those, right?
U.S. radio hit

3. Natalia Jiménez“Quédate Con Ella” (Sony)
Spanish pop star Jiménez shoots for Mexican mariachi and, with the help of Venezuelan producer Motiff, winds up singing a marvelously square ABBA breakup ballad. She’s having more fun breaking up than she did when they were together. She’s Chiquitita with Fernando’s swagger.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

4. Rocio Quiroz“La De La Paloma” (Ser)
A minor key stomp with its drums slightly off-kilter in that delicious cumbia manner. The guitar tone is like something out of ’80s new wave, and Argentine singer Quiroz sounds great spitting out heartache.
hasn’t charted

5. Alfredo Ríos El Komander“Fuga Pa’ Maza” (Twiins)
Alfredo Ríos El Komander (I guess that’s what we’re calling him now?) continues to fire off charming singles that sound like he wrote them on a napkin and recorded them in the back of the bar. This one makes the theme explicit. It’s a drinking song whose background crowd noises exist as much for their musical energy as their verisimilitude — note how the crowd abruptly shuts up mid-whoop at the end of the song, rather than fading into a jumble of congratulatory high-fives. “Mi vida es pura pura pura borrachera,” Ríos brags, his tuba and requinto (I think) players capering around the bar, spilling everyone’s drinks.
hasn’t charted

6. Grupo Cañaveral ft. Jenny and the Mexicats“Tiene Espinas el Rosal (En Vivo)” (Fonovisa)
Grupo Cañaveral De Humberto Pabón played one of their turn-of-the-millennium cumbias, “Tiene Espinas El Rosal,” in concert. They brought out the little Spanish/Mexican indie band Jenny and the Mexicats to sing it with them. It turns out I’m a sucker for both turn-of-the-millennium cumbias and Jenny and the Mexicats.
Mexican radio hit

7. Shalia Dúrcal“No Me Interesa” (EMI)
The Spanish singer’s latest blends Nashville guitar licks, ranchera horns, and electropulse into something that never peaks but is more compelling for it. Also check out “Has Sido Tú,” a tech-folk-ranchera stomper whose main riff is lifted directly from one of Slash’s solos in “Sweet Child o’ Mine.”
hasn’t charted

8. La Trakalosa de Monterrey ft. Pancho Uresti“Adicto a la Tristeza” (Remex)
It turns out Edwin Luna, lead singer of La Trakalosa de Monterrey, is very convincing portraying un “Adicto a la Tristeza.” It helps that his voice chimes like a throaty bell. Luna’s labelmate and guest singer, Pancho Uresti from Banda Tierra Sagrada, is somewhat less convincing because his voice is scratchy. When the woman in the video spurns his advances, he’ll feel nothing and should be able to pick up pretty easily with someone else. High camp.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

9. Los Tigres Del Norte“Qué Tal Si Eres Tu” (Fonovisa)
This study in triplets — the musical figure, not the polyzygotic phenomenon — still sounds better every time I hear it. Any other late ’60s bands still going this strong?
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

10. Rosendo Robles“Alterado De Corazon” (Rosendo Robles)
A banda waltz of furious excitement and possibly sharp brass sections. Possibly tuned sharp, I should say, although the jagged horn rhythms certainly feel like whirling blades of death, the kind of things you’d contort your shoulders trying to avoid in the upper reaches of a video game.
hasn’t charted

11. La Maquinaria Norteña“Si Te Vuelvo a Ver” (Azteca)
A stomping country polka with some puro Chihuahua sax, by way of New Mexico. I want La Maquinaria Norteña’s logo on my windshield.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

12. Mario “El Cachorro” Delgado“El Rancho” (Garmex)
A sad but swinging protest corrido using chicken farming as a parable about Mexican kidnapping violence, I think. The simple tune is appealing enough, but check out the interplay between bass, guitar, and requinto, alternately locking in together and tugging at the rhythm with passages of loose virtuosity.
hasn’t charted

13. Alfredo Rios El Komander“Malditas Ganas” (Twiins)
Tossed off kiss-off. The eternally loose Ríos sprechtstimmes and casually mentions “Soy De Rancho,” reminding the woman he can’t forget that nobody can forget him these days, either.
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

14. Diego Herrera ft. Los Gfez“Es Todo Un Placer” (Remex)
One of those norteño quartet-meets-banda mashups the NorteñoBlog loves.
Mexican radio hit

15. Remmy Valenzuela“Mi Princesa” (Fonovisa)
A dextrous accordion hero puts down his axe to sing a banda ballad with more authority than he’s ever sung before, enunciating to las estrellas. Has any guitar hero ever done so well with a guitar-free power ballad?
Mexican and U.S. radio hit

10 more good ones:

Miranda Lambert – “Little Red Wagon” (RCA Nashville)
Los Teke Teke – “Me Dite Duro” (Leo)
Nicki Minaj ft. Drake and Lil Wayne – “Truffle Butter” (Young Money/Cash Money/Republic)
Joey Bada$$ – “No. 99” (Cinematic/Relentless)
Sia – “Elastic Heart” (Monkey Puzzle/RCA)
Susanne Sundfør – “Delirious” (EMI Norway)
One Direction – “Night Changes” (Columbia)
Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen” (300)
Carrie Underwood – “Little Toy Guns” (Sony Nashville)
Victor Manuelle – “Que Suenen Los Tambores” (Sony)

Desfile de Éxitos 3/28/15

luis coronel

You’d be excused for thinking the charts are dormant this week — the same #1’s, mostly the same top 10’s, “Bailando” has always been at war with “Propuesta Indecente,” etc. — but look beneath the filthy snow and there are signs of life. For one thing, NorteñoBlog will never complain about an accordion ballad reaching the Hot Latin top 10, even when that ballad is as lifeless as Calibre 50’s “Contigo.” True, this particular song might not push my buttons, but anything that helps squeeze out one of King Romeo’s romantic bellows is fine by me. (i.e., Adios to “Eres Mia,” only a year old.)

For another, some decent songs are muscling their way up. The Pick to Click is “Nota de Amor,” a pretty piano/accordion reggaeton love note by Wisin, Carlos Vives, and Daddy Yankee. It’s got the same chord changes as the Black Eyed Peas’ “Where Is the Love?,” though I didn’t detect any lines comparing the CIA to the KKK. We noted last week that the puro Chihuahua sax of La Maquinaria Norteña is awesome, and their “Si Te Vuelvo a Ver” is getting more radio play. And wonder of wonders, Tuscon’s teen tenor Luis Coronel is charting with a song that doesn’t suck! “Cuando La Miro” is some fairly likable magic changes bullshit. Coronel can barely keep up with it, but he knows how to put across wide-eyed eagerness.

All that plus Pitbull! NorteñoBlog will also never complain about the presence of Pitbull. And not just on the charts — in public and semi-public spaces. Even if Pitbull set up a Sheets Energy Strips display inside a funeral home and cornered NorteñoBlog, NorteñoBlog would just end up buying a bunch of energy strips and handing them out to the bereaved because, you know, it’s Pitbull. He could charm the rigor off of rigor mortis and/or Marco Rubio.

These are the top 25 Hot Latin Songs and top 20 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published March 28.

1. “El Perdon” – Nicky Jam & Enrique Iglesias
2. “Propuesta Indecente” – Romeo Santos (86 WEEKS OLD)
3. “Ay Vamos” – J Balvin
4. “Bailando” – Enrique ft. Descemer Bueno, Gente de Zona, & the word “contigo” (52 WEEKS OLD! “Feliz cumpleaños contigo…”)
5. “Hablame de Ti” – Banda MS (#6 RegMex) (snoooooozzzzzz)
6. “Mi Verdad” – Maná ft. Shakira
7. “Contigo” – Calibre 50 (#1 RegMex)
8. “Travesuras” – Nicky Jam
9. “Yo También” – Romeo Santos ft. Marc Anthony
10. “El Karma” – Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes del Rancho (#11 RegMex)

11. “Hilito” – Romeo Santos
12. “Lejos De Aqui” – Farruko
13. “Fanatica Sensual” – Plan B
14. “Piensas (Dile La Verdad)” – Pitbull ft. Gente de Zona
15. “Disparo Al Corazon” – Ricky Martin
16. “Eres Una Niña” – Gerardo Ortíz (#9 RegMex)
17. “Soltero Disponible” – Regulo Caro (#2 RegMex)
18. “Dime” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda (#8 RegMex)
19. “Juntos (Together)” – Juanes
20. “Lo Hiciste Otra Vez” – La Arrolladora Banda El Limón (#3 RegMex) (Oh dear, this is not good. Not just sap — meandering sap.)

21. “Pierdo la Cabeza” – Zion & Lennox
22. “Mi Vuelvo Un Cobarde” – Christian Daniel
23. “Qué Tiene De Malo” – Calibre 50 ft. El Komander (#18 RegMex)
24. “Nota de Amor” – Wisin + Carlos Vives ft. Daddy Yankee
25. “Mi Princesa” – Remmy Valenzuela (#13 RegMex)

¡Adios!
“Eres Mia” – Romeo Santos (53 WEEKS OLD)
—————–

4. “Levantando Polvadera” – Voz De Mando
5. “El Que Se Enamora Pierde” – Banda Carnaval
7. “Eres Tú” – Proyecto X
10. “No Te Vayas” – Fidel Rueda

12. “Que Aun Te Amo” – Pesado
13. “Se Me Sigue Notando” – Chuy Lizarraga y Su Banda Tierra Sinaloense
14. “Mi Primera Vez” – Jonatan Sánchez
15. “Calla y Me Besas” – Enigma Norteña
16. “Si Te Vuelvo a Ver” – La Maquinaria Norteña
17. “Me Sobrabas Tu” – Banda Los Recoditos
18. “Cuando La Miro” – Luis Coronel
19. “Todo Tuyo” – Banda El Recodo
20. “Bonito Y Bello” – La Septima Banda

¡Adios!
“Y Vete Olvidando” – Javier Rosas
“Entonces Que Somos” – Banda El Recodo (A nada Luciano Luna ballad off Recodo’s 2013 album, now turned into a dramatic short film.)

“Go Tejano Day”: What’s In a Name?

go tejano day

[Note: This article has been edited to reflect NorteñoBlog’s belated realization that HLSR is in fact a non-profit, using its proceeds for full college scholarships. Outside accusations of discrimination remain.]

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo sounds like a county fair on steroids and gamma rays, an orgy of horses, country music, and mad cowboys deep frying everything that’s not nailed down. I’m frankly jealous we don’t have one up in Chicago. But there’s trouble in Bayou City, and there has been for the past eight years, specifically surrounding the rodeo’s annual “Go Tejano Day” event:

Go Tejano Day is one of the biggest days at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo but it didn’t stop protestors from rallying outside of NRG Park.

Tejano supporters protested Sunday afternoon saying officials here have chosen musical acts in the Norteno and Banda genre and have not stayed true to Tejano music and culture.

Indeed, yesterday’s Go Tejano Day crowd broke the rodeo’s alltime record for attendance: 75,357 people paid to enjoy the music of Arrolladora and La Maquinaria Norteña, one banda and one norteño group, both of whom NorteñoBlog has been known to enjoy. Neither group has anything to do with Tejano music. To repeat, that’s the biggest ever paid attendance at any day of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, which otherwise features first-tier country artists and a couple top-40 pop stars. (Dierks Bentley’s playing tonight; tomorrow’s Ariana Grande.) The second most attended day in history? 2012’s Go Tejano Day, which featured Julión Álvarez and Los Invasores de Nuevo Leon, one banda one norteño, neither of them Tejano.

Indeed, you have to go back to 2007 to find an actual Tejano act playing Go Tejano Day. (It was crossover country star Emilio.) Not coincidentally, that was also the last year the event didn’t spark protests. In 2008 the concert planners broke with tradition. For the first time since Go Tejano Day started in 1990, its headliners weren’t Tejano bands — instead they were Duelo, Texans playing norteño, and Los Horoscopos de Durango, playing Chicago duranguense. 71,165 people still showed up, but so did some protesters:

“The bands that are inside are representing Mexico,” said one protester, Steve Rodriguez, 54. “That’s not representing Tejanos.”

The rodeo’s excuse has always been reasonable, as you’d expect from a gigantic moneymaking corporation. If you’re a Tejano music fan, maybe it’s infuriatingly reasonable. Go Tejano Day was never meant to refer to Tejano music; rather, it was a play on the “Go Texan” slogan and designed to appeal to Houston’s large-and-growing Hispanic population, and the nineties just happened to be when Tejano music was on the rise. As we saw around Grammy time, back in 1996, when the Grammys were busily neglecting norteño music, the Tejano music industry marshaled its clout to create the “Best Mexican-American/Tejano” category, which La Mafia promptly won. Since then, though, Tejano has grown less and less popular. As Tejano fan Ramiro Burr pointed out in 2008, “When it comes time to booking the bands, the Houston Rodeo folks are doing what commercial radio and record labels do — they go for what brings in the largest crowds.” Since Go Tejano Day started featuring norteño and banda acts, the event has consistently broken attendance records for the rodeo’s organizers. Can you blame them?

Well, maybe.

The thing is, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, to whom I’ll start referring as the more nefarious-sounding HLSR, has also done that big-corporation thing of changing the terms of the debate. The HLSR has accomplished this with diabolical ease. (MWA-jajaja!) The 2008 protests weren’t only about which bands would play the main stage; they made other demands:

1. Award greater number of scholarships to Hispanics. Only a few
scholarships are awarded to Hispanics.

2. Need Hispanic representation at the Executive Committee Level of the
rodeo’s governing group. Currently, Hispanics do not have
representation.

3. Retain event title as “Go Tejano Day”, while building greater
awareness of Tejano music & culture.

4. Expand role of “Go Tejano Committee” in the entertainment selection
process. The Go Tejano Committee has no role in selecting bands to
perform.

5. Pay parity for Tejano music artists. Tejano artists are paid much
much less than the other non-Hispanic artists. Yet, the Tejano artists
have broken numerous attendance records.

6. Increase Hispanic themed days/events at the Houston Rodeo.

Indeed, in 2008, “Several black lawmakers, including State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, joined the Tejano cause…, saying blacks, too, should play a bigger role in the show.”

But:

Rodeo officials counter that about one-third of scholarships already go to Hispanic students. And while there are no blacks or Hispanics on the rodeo’s highest volunteer committee [it’s called The Executive Committee, MWAjajaja], that’s because membership is based on years of service and financial contributions.

I can’t speak to the scholarship numbers. But that second point is a classic method of refusing to integrate your organization while still seeming cool with the idea of integration. The idea goes, “They, the people whose money we’re taking in record-setting amounts, can’t help us plan the specific means of taking their money because they’ve never done it before. But seriously, we’re concerned.” Well, if nothing changes, nothing changes. Here, feast your eyes on the pasty faces of the current 2015 Executive Committee! The rodeo does have a black Vice President and some Latino-sounding names on the Board of Directors, which isn’t nothing. But it also isn’t integration. And if you’re serious about representing your clientele, it won’t take you eight years to integrate your Executive Committee, sure as you don’t wanna touch your shoe soles after visiting the livestock show.

(Um, I would like to pre-emptively apologize to Chris Richardson or any other members of the Executive Committee who might, in fact, be Hispanic. Set me straight!)

But in 2008, Leroy Shafer, the HLSR’s Chief Operating Officer, saved his fighting words for the musical argument. “The very vast majority of the Hispanic community knows that this is a subterfuge to try to keep a dying music industry alive,” he said of the protest. “They’re not buying into it.” He’s right about that. This 2009 message board thread is a good read, with every other post offering a sound argument about appropriate names for the event (the meaning of Tejano isn’t in question) and which music is worth supporting. But nobody really addresses the power structure like those 2008 protesters, except for a poster named MH, who says, “[W]e will not be able to influence the Tejano Day if we do not start becoming involved in their planning…”

This year’s protests got some extra attention thanks to Oscar de la Rosa of La Mafia, that Grammy-winning Tejano band; de la Rosa went on a profane rant against rodeo organizers during one of his concerts. (La Mafia has played the rodeo in the past.) There was also a change.org petition. But neither addressed the power structure of the HLSR; they just implored Tejano fans to boycott so that the HLSR would schedule some Tejano bands. The HLSR responded in kind: “We put music on our main RODEOHOUSTON stage that attracts fans and sells tickets.” There are bigger fish to fry here. I frankly don’t care who plays Go Tejano Day, but there’s no question Tejano’s appeal has waned for a while. It simply has fewer fans than norteño and banda. Changing the name to “Hispanic Heritage Day” or hiring La Mafia instead of Arrolladora isn’t gonna change who’s in charge of the rodeo or how they make their scholarship money. They’d just make less money if they hired La Mafia.

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