Norteño (music)

Norteño (music)

Los Tigres Del Norte

Norteño (Spanish pronunciation: , northern), also musìca norteña, is a genre of Mexican music. The accordion and the bajo sexto are norteño's most characteristic instruments. The genre is popular in both Mexico and the United States, especially among the Mexican and Mexican-American community, and it has become popular in many Latin American countries as far as Chile and Colombia. Though originating from rural areas, norteño is popular in urban as well as rural areas.

Some popular norteño artists include Ramón Ayala, Intocable, Los Cadetes de Linares, Los Alegres de Terán, Los Cachorros De Juan Villarreal, Los Tigres del Norte, Los Huracanes del Norte, Los Rieleros del Norte, and Los Tucanes de Tijuana. Local radio stations have continued to be a major influence in popularizing norteño in the Mexican-American community.

A conjunto norteño is a type of Mexican folk ensemble. It mostly includes diatonic accordion, bajo sexto, electric bass or double bass, and drums, and sometimes saxophone.

The norteño repertory covers canción ranchera, corrido, Balada, Cumbia, huapango norteño, polka, redova and chotís.[1]



Emperor Maximilian I was the first to bring the music of Middle Europe music to México. By 1864 he had accumulated marching bands and musicians to entertain him. When Maximilian's empire was defeated, many of his former army and fellow countrymen fled north and dispersed into what is now the southwestern United States. Many Polish immigrants arrived in Mexico, bringing their musical heritage to the region. Norteño music developed from a blending of Mexican and Spanish oral and musical traditions, military brass band instrumentation, and Germanic musical styles such as polka and waltz.

European immigrants to northern Mexico and the southwestern United States also brought dance traditions such as the varsovienne. The focus on the accordion in the music of their home countries was integrated into Mexican music, and the instrument is essential in the genre today. It was called norteño because it was most popular in the northern regions of Mexico.

The late 1910s and 1920s were the golden age of the corrido, a form of ballad. Mexicans on both sides of the border came to San Antonio, Texas, to record in hotels. Their songs memorialize the Mexican political revolution of the time. Los Alegres de Terán was among the first norteño bands. Later in the century the genre became more commercial with the works of Los Relámpagos del Norte and other groups. More recent bands such as Intocable integrate elements of rock music and other popular styles.

Comparison to Tejano

In the 1950s, the heavy influence of norteño on the traditional music of Mexican-Americans in southern Texas gave rise to a new form of popular music called Tejano or "Tex-Mex". It was influenced by American rock and roll and swing. Tejano music often includes English lyrics and may sound much more like American rock and country music, but is a broad genre incorporating many different styles.

Because Tejano music is derived from norteño, the two are often confused. Tejano is more influenced by American music styles such as country and jazz, while norteño is less Americanized with a rural, traditional sound.


Modern norteño has also diverged significantly from more original "oldie" norteño of pre-1950's artists such as Narciso Martínez. Since the 1970s and 1980s, electric bass guitars and a modern drum set have been added.The traditional bajo sexto-accordion style of Los Alegres de Terán and Antonio Aguilar transformed into the modern style typical to that of Los Tigres del Norte, Intocable, Duelo and Los Tucanes De Tijuana. Current songs may feature percussions, saxophone, or an electronic keyboard.

Norteño rose in popularity during the 1990s and 2000s in the United States with the increase in the Hispanic and Latino American population. It is one of the more popular styles of modern Mexican music today, and it is becoming more notable in the United States. Many famous bands record in the US on American music labels.


Distinguishable features of norteño include use of the button accordion and bajo sexto. The rhythm is usually steady and can be middle or fast tempo. Norteño is a style of Mexican country music and thus has a more rural sound. Some artists like Ramón Ayala may sound older and more traditional, while others such as Los Dueto Voces del Rancho have a rowdier style and stronger beat. Like many traditional Mexican styles, norteño features the is also noted for the Grito Mexicano, a yell made at musical interludes by the musician and sometimes the audience.

Genres similar to norteño include banda and duranguense. These bands employ mostly brass instruments instead of accordions and guitars, but may perform the same songs. Because many of these band names contain Mexican state names or a general geographical description, such as "de la Sierra", norteño, banda, duranguense, and other similar genres can be classified into a category known as "regional Mexican music." Also, norteño is a border-type music, which is why many norteño groups choose to attach "del Norte" to their group names.

Regional styles

Norteño group

Norteño has many different regional styles. Norteño in Texas, for example, is likely to be influenced by American music, while artists from Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas may have influences from the Caribbean. Jalisco and Sinaloa have also produced norteña bands, even though the two states are more closely associated with the musical styles of banda and duranguense. Chihuahua and Zacatecas norteño often combines the saxophone and the accordion. Bands from Guanajuato and Jalisco sometimes employ synthetic marimbas rather than accordion. Each norteño band also has its own unique adorno, a musical interlude between lyrics. For example, the adorno of Los Rieleros del Norte is typically a descending scale.

See also


  1. ^ *Atlas Cultural de México. Música. México: Grupo Editorial Planeta. 1988.  

External links

  • Cuellar, J. B. El Saxofón in Tejano and Norteño Music. San Francisco State University.
  • The Texas-Mexican Conjunto. Migrations in History. Smithsonian Institution.
  • Música Norteña. Honky Tonks, Hymns and the Blues. NPR.