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BOOKS & THE CULTURE I PHOTOS BY JOHN DYER & TEXT BY. JUAN TEJEDA Made in Tejas believe it was the great Chicano scholar Americo Paredes, que en paz descanse, who first said that much of our folklore here on the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas was a result of the intercultural conflict between Anglos and Mexicans. Conjunto music was created out of this conflict and is at once a resolution and a synthesis. The Spanish word conjunto simply means “ensemble” or “group.” For many of the Mexican/Chicano people living in South Texas and other parts of the United States, however, conjunto refers to a specific Texas Mexican musical group, and style of music, whose principal instrument is the button accordion. The mexicanos living in South Texas and Northern Mexico adopted the button accordion from the German settlers during the late 1800s and began playing the lively and danceable polkas, waltzes, schottishes, redowas, and mazurkas. After the turn of the century, the accordion was paired up with the Spanish/Mexican bajo sexto creation of a new, original American musical ensemble and style of music was in the making. Conjunto fuses the German and the Mexican, accordion and bajo sexto, polkas and huapangos, the Old World and the New World. The modern standard, traditional four-piece conjunto consists of the accordion, bajo sexto, bass, and drums. Progressive otheiinstruments. The conjunto repertoire is varied with traditional instrumentals, rhythms, and canciones, combined with international influences. Conjunto is Chicano roots music. It is our history, our stories and poems in song. It is our bilingual/bicultural, multilingual/multicultural reality in music that combines cumbias and polkas con elementos de blues, country, rock, rap, reggae, salsa, merengue, jazz, and more. Conjunto music is at once bien barrio and beyond barriers and borders. Born out of the poor mexicanos in the ranchos of South Texas, conjunto music has become a powerful source of pride, Chicano self-identity, cultural reaffirmation, and empowerment. Conjunto es comunidad: our sacred Saturday night celebrations and ceremonies donde la raza dances in a circle, counter clockwise, always coming back to the source of the music, to the band, to the beat. Conjunto es la voz del pueblo, y nuestras canciones vienen del corazon. Adapted from the preface to Conjunto: Voz del pueblo, canciones del corazon. Voice of the People, Songs from the Heart and captions by Juan Tejeda, introduction by Joe Nick Patoski. VALERIO LONGORIA is considered one of the geniuses of conjunto music. A pioneer accordionist who began playing in the 1930s, he is credited with introducing vocals \(the cancion ranchera sung in polka or waltz Composer, innovator, recording artist, reed tuner, and winner of the National Heritage Award, he developed a new style of playing the accordion that would influence all future generations of accordion players. 22 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 18, 2005