Manuel Peña interview

Click here to see this interesting interview from the #1 expert on Conjunto music Dr. Manuel Peña.

About Conjunto by Ramiro Burr

Very cool comments from Ramiro…

Many consider the folksy conjunto secondary to the more popular Tejano.

Those who do are missing out on a real treasure. While conjunto does not have the flash and pop of Tejano, it does work its own beautiful magic.

Top artists like Conjunto Bernal, the late Tony De La Rosa, Mingo Saldivar, Los Dos Gs and others know how to create sparks with the basic accordion and bajo sexto, bottom-heavy rhythms, direct lyrics and a heavy dose of blues power.

At its most primal, raw conjunto is driven by intense, almost tribalistic percussions and fat bass lines.
Like blues and reggae, the sheer repetition of these bottom heavy rhythms tend to entrance and hypnotize.
Fans are also captivated by the lyrics, sung with honesty, pain and conviction.

And yet despite the often sad lyrics, ironically conjunto music is often described as “happy dance music.”

Why?

Because even if you don’t know the lyrics, the dance beats are irresistible and always compel folks to the dance floor.

For those who do sing along, they relive the moments when life is intense — that first love, that terrible breakup, the pain and solitude, hopes and dreams.

Those are the unforgettable moments that make up a lifetime. Even if we lost in love, ultimately we’re happy we had an opportunity. Often we walk away a better person. And with the distance of time, that special song helps us relive that moment.

The catharsis helps us find healing and hope.

Yeah, there might be tears and old wounds may resurface. But undoubtedly, there all be also a varying sense of tension and release, redemption and absolution, clarity and understanding.

Timeless nuggets include “Mi Unico Camino,” “Preso sin delito,” “El Silencio de La Noche,” and many others.
In Mexico, there’s an old saying, “la music es la vida, y el recordar es vivir (music is life and to remember, is to live again).” It often is used to describe fiery rancheras but it also applies to conjunto.

Lucha Libre

The other day my 5 year old asked me if he could watch WWE Monday Night Raw. He is a big time wrestling fanatic (especially of John Cena). It is funny because I don’t let him watch wrestling on TV, but it just took one night when we had friends over and their little boys brought a wrestling DVD…he was hooked after that. I remember in my house lucha libre was a family event – not that we wrestled each other, but that we would watch it on our black and white TV. Black Gorman, Mil Mascaras, Victor Rivera, Andre the Giant, and Chavo Guerrero were some of the names I remembered back then. In my jr. high and high school years, it was Bruiser Brody, Scott Casey, Gino Hernandez, Tully Blanchard all from Southwest Championship wrestling. Those were the days. Now I think wrestling has gotten too “adult” for kids to watch – or maybe I am taking my fatherly role too seriously, lol. So when he asked me, I kind of ignored the question and he soon forgot about it anyway. I prefer Youtube to see the greatest wrestlers of all time. Maybe for Halloween I will dress up like Mil Mascaras! The luchador gimmick has already be taken by the Conjunto “Los Enmascarados”, from San Antonio, they have been doing that for years. Yes, lucha libre is part of my culture!  Makes me feel like watching “Nacho Libre” again.  Anyways, here is a toast to a part of my up bringing: gathering around as a family, filled with warmth and love, as my mom screams: “¡Pégale Sonso!”

Sun block

Recently we played at a festival here in San Antonio.  I knew things were going to be bad when I saw that the stage was facing the sun.  Sure enough as soon as we started we began losing the shade we had on stage.  I was ready to call it quits because I was worried that the sun was going to ruin the reeds on my accordion.  The reeds on the accordion are held in place by wax.  Wax and sun do not mix.  We kept moving back to try to stay in the shade, until we had our backs to the rear of the portable stage.  Needless to say, there was no escaping the South Texas sun.  Luckily my accordions turned out ok, but I feel people should take more consideration when asking bands to perform for them; especially outdoors!  Stay cool.