Is Tejano Music Completely Dead? We Ask The Experts

In the past decade or so, much has been written about the decline and apparent death of Tejano Music, the much-loved yet all but forgotten genre that mixes traditional conjunto music with modernized, keyboard-driven pop sounds native to the Mexican-American population of South Texas.

The Houston radio airwaves no longer carry the format, with the FM stations KQQK Tejano 106.5 and Super Tejano 108.5 gone for more than a decade, and Tejano 980 AM also converting away from the genre over the last few years.

Even the so-called Go Tejano Day at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is Tejano in name only, showcasing its last Tejano act back in 2007. The popular after work Party On the Plaza showcases held at Jones Plaza are a sweet memory, and the stage at Guadalupe Plaza remains silent.

Yet there is one event where Tejano has always flourished and continues to do so: The Annual Festival Chicano at the Miller Outdoor Theatre. For three days every October, a certain Mr. Daniel Bustamante has produced Tejano showcases and community events for the whole family, much to the delight of the still-strong fan base of the genre.

So Rocks Off headed over to Hermann Park this past weekend and spoke to five influential artists about the current state of Tejano music and their response to claims that Tejano is dead.

Jaime De Anda:

Dead?! Not Jaime y Los Chamacos, we've been booked all year and continue to tour. We just came home from Las Vegas and Arizona. I agree that the fire has burned out some after [the] '90s, but we has a lot of young fans back then that are now coming back to Tejano.

We aren't on the radio anymore, but you have the Internet... iTunes, Amazon, and BNET Radio online. The fans keep showing us that they care, and when they show up to events like this (Festival Chicano), it keeps the tradition going.

There was a 13-year-old kid out there tonight who plays accordion! There's our future right there! So no, definitely not dead. Neglected a little bit, but not dead.

Little Joe:

I've been in this business for over 50 years, and the so called "death of Tejano" has not affected me. I'm still going, still here and happy to be here. What I do is help the movement in any way I can by talking about issues that the community needs to be made aware of.... like diabetes. I'm a diabetic, so I help raise that awareness, turn a negative into a positive.

I'm not dead and the music is not either.

Gary Hobbs:

After 29 and a half years, I'm still here and I'm still going somewhere with Tejano. I may not be the biggest artist, but I'm happy being Gary Hobbs. Status doesn't mean too much to be, as long as I'm able to entertain, I will.

It's not over until God says it is. Tejano artists work hard for what we have. So yes, Tejano has gone through a cycle, it has evolved and declined, but every form of music goes through the same. Country, disco, funk...

I really just want to say "thank you" to my fans for the support. It keeps me, and Tejano, going.

Ruben Ramos:

To me it is still very much alive. It may not be on the radio anymore, but it hasn't gone away! I'm not underground. As long as I'm still working and Little Joe and everybody is still working, it will not be dead.

The fans didn't die either. We still attract great crowds without land radio. I just finished a new album of Tejano, mariachi, and oldies rock. I love to do this... what else am I gonna do?!

Ram Herrera:

Did you see the crowd out there tonight? It ain't too dead! It will never die as long as they still come out to support us. Tejano might not be as strong as it was back in the 80s and 90s, but we keep on going. It up to the young generation of Tejano to keep the legacy alive. Groups like Siggno, they are the future of Tejano. I agree that the market is not big anymore, but you don't abandon family!

I'm part of a handful of bad muther fuckers in Tejano music, and I'm proud to keep our dream alive.

The fans certainly did show up to support, roughly about 30,000 people over the three nights. Hardy a single parking space was available around the theatre each night, and both the seats and the hill were packed.

The fans we spoke with also agree that Tejano is not dead, just changed. Now they listen on Pandora or other Internet streams, or at home as they barbecue and watch football.

"If you are a true Tejano, you are gonna find it" says Robert Cavazos, a lifelong Tejano fan from Weslaco, Texas. "If you love it, you are gonna listen to it, go out and dance it, and go out and buy it. Tejano fans love it too much for it to die".

Judging from the crowds we saw, we can deduce a few things: Tejanos love their Houston Texans, they love Bud Light, and they love Tejano music.

And so, it seems that besides all of the obstacles, the decline of air time, mainstream appeal and sales, the genre lives on in the fans.

Que viva la musica Tejana!

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

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When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Houston Press contributor Marco points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston music scene and beyond.