Started by musician Juan Tejeda 36 years ago, the annual showcase of conjunto music known as the Tejano Conjunto Festival will be in full swing this weekend at Rosedale Park and at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center, the event’s sponsoring organization. It’s a unique event that draws fans from all over the U.S., Mexico and beyond.
Born at the confluence of Mexican and German folk traditions, conjunto is a genuine South Texas musical genre that combines the German accordion with the Spanish bajo sexto guitar to produce its signature sound. Over the decades, other instruments have been added, including drums, electric bass, and more recently, even synthesizers. Some 30 bands are scheduled to perform this weekend, including Ruben de la Cruz y su Conjunto, Ruben Garza y La Nueva Era Musical, Santiago Jimenez Jr. y su Conjunto, Eva Ybarra y so Conjunto, Flaco Jimenez y su Conjunto, and David Lee Garza y Los Musicales. It’s three days of music, and fun, starting at 5:30 p.m. Friday, May 26. And you are not expected to just sit and listen. This is dance music, so go for it!
David Lee Garza and his family are also among the 2017 Conjunto Hall of Fame honorees who were celebrated at the special gala Thursday at the Guadalupe Theater. Other new Hall-of-Fame-ers are Ramiro Cavazos, Ramon Rabbit Sanchez and Ruby Ramirez Franco. Two of the awards were presented posthumously to the families of Ramirez Franco and Antonio Garza, the father of David Lee.
Other special events, such as an accordion-tuning workshop on Saturday, May 27, and the presentation of the poster contest awards Friday, will add to the festivities. The winning poster pictured here is by artist Regina Morales.
To learn more about the history and impact of this popular music form and the festival, I recommend a book Tejeda co-edited – “Puro Conjunto: An Album in Words and Pictures,” published by the University of Texas Press in 2001. Tejeda was the fest’s founder and, as the music program director at the Guadalupe Center, organized and curated the event for years.
By Jasmina Wellinghoff, Arts Editor