Tejano music or Tex-Mex music (Texan-Mexican music) is the name given to various forms of folk and popular music originating among the Mexican-American populations of Central and Southern Texas. With roots in the late 19th century, it became a music genre with a wider audience in the late 20th century thanks to artists such as Selena, often referred to as "The Queen of Tejano", Mazz, Elida Reyna, Los Palominos, Ramón Ayala, Elsa García, Laura Canales, La Mafia, Oscar Estrada, Jay Perez, Emilio Navaira, Alicia Villarreal, Gary Hobbs, Shelly Lares, Stefani Montiel, David Lee Garza and Jennifer Peña, La Fiebre La Sombra.
Europeans from Germany (first during Spanish time and 1830s), Poland, and what is now the Czech Republic migrated to Texas and Mexico, bringing with them their style of music and dance. They brought with them the waltz, polkas and other popular forms of music and dance. However it was not until the Mexican Revolution (1910–1917) that forced many of these Europeans to flee Mexico and into South Texas, that their musical influence was to have a major impact on Tejanos.
At the turn of the century, Tejanos were mostly involved in ranching and agriculture. The only diversion was the occasional traveling musician who would come to the ranches and farms. Their basic instruments were the flute, guitar, and drum, and they sang songs that were passed down through the generations from songs originally sung in Mexico. One of these musicians was Lydia Mendoza, who became one of the first to record Spanish language music as part of RCA's expansion of their popular race records of the 1920s. As these traveling musicos traveled into areas where the Germans, Poles, and Czechs lived, they began to incorporate the oom-pah sound into their music. Narciso "El Huracan del Valle" Martinez, known as the father of conjunto music, defined the accordion's role in conjunto music.
Central to the evolution of early Tejano music was the blend of traditional forms such as the corrido and mariachi, and Continental European styles, such as polka, introduced by German and Czech settlers in the late 19th century. In particular, the accordion was adopted by Tejano folk musicians at the turn of the 20th century, and it became a popular instrument for amateur musicians in Texas and Northern Mexico. Small bands known as orquestas, featuring amateur musicians, became a staple at community dances.
Norteño/conjunto accordion pioneer Narciso Martínez learned many tunes from German and Czech brass bands and transposed them to his accordion. Martínez gave accordion playing a new virtuosity in the 1930s, when he adopted the two button row accordion. At the same time, he formed a group with Santiago Almeida, a bajo sexto player. Their new musical style, known as conjunto, soon became the popular music of the working class Tejano. Flaco Jiménez carried on Martinez's tradition of accordion virtuosity and became a fixture on the international World Music scene by the 1980s.
In the 1950s and 1960s, rock and roll and country music made inroads, and electric guitars and drums were added to conjunto combos. Also, performers such as Little Joe added both nuances of jazz and R&B, and a Chicano political consciousness. During the 1970s, the music was known as "La Onda Chicana;" it was later rebranded as "la Onda Tejana" in the late 1980s-90s.
The 1960s and 1970s brought a new fusion of cultures and the first La Onda Tejana Broadcasters. Popular Tejano musician and producer Paulino Bernal of the Conjunto Bernal discovered and introduced to the Tejano music scene the norteño band Los Relampagos Del Norte with Ramon Ayala and Cornelio Reyna on his Bego Records. Ayala still enjoys success on both sides of the border. Reyna enjoyed a very successful career as an actor and singer and resurfaced in the Tejano scene with a major hit with his collaboration with Tejano artist La Mafia. He toured constantly until his death. In the 1960s and 1970s, the first La Onda Tejana broadcasting pioneers hit the airwaves including Marcelo Tafoya (first recipient of the Tejano Music Awards "Lifetime Achievement Award), Mary Rodriguez, Rosita Ornelas, and Luis Gonzalez, shortly followed by an influx of broadcasters including the Davila family of San Antonio. This central Texas support by popular broadcasters helped fuel La Onda.
La Onda continued to surge in the early to mid-1980s with the fusion progression of tejano music coming to the forefront regionally with "tejano ballads" like Espejismo's hit "Somos Los Dos", written and sung by McAllen native Rudy Valdez, and La Sombra with their Tex-Mex English & Spanish brand of tejano. As the 1990s dawned, La Mafia, already holding over a dozen Tejano Music Awards, originated a new tejano style later to become a tejano standard. La Mafia combined a pop beat to the popular Mexican cumbia and achieved success never before seen in the tejano industry, becoming the first tejano artist to sell over one million albums with Estas Tocando Fuego in 1992. With extensive touring from as early as 1988, they eventually opened the doors for such artists as Selena, Emilio Navaira, Jay Perez, and Grupo Mazz. Electronic instruments and synthesizers increasingly dominated the sound, and tejano music increasingly appealed to bilingual country and rock fans. In the wake of her murder, Selena's music received attention from a mainstream American audience as well. Selena, known as "Queen of Tejano Music", became the first female tejano artist to win a Grammy and her Ven Conmigo became the first tejano album by a female artist certified gold.
Since 1998, tejano has seen a decline of dedicated radio stations across the USA, due to several factors. Among these is the success of Intocable. As a result, many radio stations across the U.S., especially in Texas, have converted to Norteño/Banda. This has caused tejano internet radio to become popular.