The first time I heard Tejano music was in the womb. I don’t exactly remember being in the womb, but I just know that the music was passed through my mom’s umbilical cord…Canciones de Little Joe y la Familia, Laura Canales, Latin Breed, and even my dad’s – Oscar G., were all felt while in my mother’s belly as she danced at outdoor bailes or while listening to the radio as she went about her day.
My dad, Tejano artist, Oscar G. was a huge influence on me while growing up.
Those were the good old days…when Tejano music was at its best – in the 70’s all the way up to the 90’s. Tejano music ruled in Texas and it was good, quality music. Today, there is a different picture. A picture where Tejano music is slowly fading away from the radiowaves and a quality song/band is found only by digging through dusty records.
Que paso? What happened to La Musica Tejana that we all grew up with? What happened to the social consciousness of Tejano records displaying the Farmworker Eagle and uplifting messages like “Para la Gente” / “For the People” and songs that talked of resistance and hope? Some may say that it was just a moment in history and is now long gone. An era when Tejanos started identifying as Xicanos, resisted the War in Vietnam, and marched alongside Cesar Chavez.
Little Joe’s Albums, “Para La Gente” / “For the People”, “Chicanismo,” and “La Voz de Aztlan” / “The Voice of Aztlan” clearly show Tejano music’s political consciousness and indigenous roots.
Some may say that this era ended in the 1970’s giving birth to the romanticism of the 1980’s. Tejanos left the picket line to the love line! Even then, the 1980’s produced lovely romantic ballads such as La Mafia’s “Tu, tu, y Solo Tu” and La Fiebre’s “Borracho de Besos.” I still hear those songs so clearly in my head and they actually bring a smile to my face reminiscing about how good it felt to have your own Tejano brothers and sisters as role models for the young generation Tejanito/as. I remember how MTV even influenced Tejano music through videos and through the incorporation of pop and electronic beats. La Mafia first started out in 1980, but they acknowledge the influence the hip hop generation had on their style of music in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They started producing videos and started to write songs in English to appeal to the bilingual and young Tejano generation. Groups such as La Sombra followed in their footsteps and eventually became the Texas version of the Mexican group – Menudo. I remember being 9 years old and attending my first Tejano concert – not dance – but concert – front stage with La Sombra singing “El Sapo” and “Pepe le Pew” both of which incorporated rap into the lyrics.
I remember as a young child, watching Selena Quintanilla – a brown Tejana-Xicana win a Grammy. You can just imagine what that did to a whole generation of young brown girls throughout Texas! It meant we could follow our own dreams and become whatever we wanted to be in life – that our contribution to our culture was meaningful and that we could use our voice to influence the masses!
Selena Quintanilla had a style of her own fused with Hip-Hop and Tejano.
With the dying of Selena came the slow death of women in Tejano music. Shelly Lares is still representing and has been for many years. I give her huge props for keeping it real and keeping a consistent edge in the male dominated Tejano music industry. But Selena’s death marked a moment in time when hope was lost. It’s like the dying of Michael Jackson for the black community. An icon leaving us too soon means all we have is their memory and a legacy, but who will pave the road for future entertainers with great influence?
La musica Tejana of today is still going strong, but is masked by corporate radio stations that are now trying to fuse Tejano music and Mexican Regional Music into one. Don’t get me wrong! Tejano Music and music from Mexico go hand in hand. They’re like two twin brothers who don’t look alike but are from the same parents. You can’t deny each one’s identity. Each brings with it its own history, its own artists, its own following.
Tonight, I attended the 5th Annual Premios Texas, a Texas based music awards. I was so disappointed to see that for a show honoring artists in Texas, only one Tejano artist – Bobby Pulido was given an award and invited to perform. Vallejo, an Austin, TX based group was the only other Texas group represented at the Premios Texas awards. All of the other artists were from other Latin American countries and were artists frequently seen on the network, Univision, (which by the way seems to only portray the lighter shades of Latinos on its network). It was a sad dose of reality for me to see that Tejano music has resorted to making Bobby Pulido its poster child as if his father, the legendary Tejano artist Roberto Pulido never existed.
What made the Premios Texas awards show even more peculiar was the naming of the Lifetime Achievement Award. In years past, Flaco Jimenez, Ruben Ramos, Little Joe, and A.B. Quintanilla III were recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award so I was anxiously waiting for the moment when another Tejano icon would be awarded. Names were running through my head as I was sitting in my seat – David Lee Garza, Elida Reyna, Jimmy Edwards, Mister Chivo, Patsy Torres, or even tributes to the late Selena or Laura Canales crossed my mind. To my shock, the Premios Texas Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Puerto Rican singer Olga Tañón. Nothing against Olga, but it seemed that the awards ceremony was a tribute to her. She won Best Female Artist, Best Tropical Music Artist, was given the Lifetime Achievement Award, and presented a couple of awards herself as well as performing a song of hers on stage. It was like being at the BET Awards and seeing Jamie Foxx host, perform, and run an all man show all night!
I have to give it up to Olga Tañón for being a successful performer for the merengue and Spanish pop genre, and her influence in Texas should not go unnoticed, but for her to recieve such a prestigous award for Texas music just does not make any sense to me. I was floored! There was no tribute to Selena and no recognition of the countless of Tejano artists who could have recieved that award or even be invited to have a presence at the awards.
I ask myself, what is Tejano music coming to? Is it now a small spot in a Texas based music awards? Is it pulling a dusty record off your shelf? Is it a flash from the past Tejano Radio station who is still trying to hold on to the “old” Tejano music? Or will it forever be just a memory for those who lived to see Tejano music at its best?