Event Cancellation: San Jose Conjunto Jam

Into every life a little rain must fall… and such is the forecast for San Jose tomorrow. As a result, the Conjunto/Tejano Accordion Jam scheduled for Saturday in Kelley Park has been cancelled. I’ve taken it off our calendar, but spread the word if you know anyone who was planning on attending. Sorry!

Eva Ybarra, La Reina de Acordeón

Eva YbarraIn a genre (conjunto) dominated by men, Eva Ybarra has done more than hold her own — she has become a master. Born in San Antonio, Ybarra is a self-taught accordionist who began playing in clubs and restaurants at age six. Her fluid style and fast, melodic runs set her apart and earned her the nickname, “la reina de acordeón” (queen of the accordion). Today, after years of performing solo and with her own group, she teaches accordion and inspires the next generation of conjunto musicians.

A profile of Ybarra in today’s San Antonio Express-News covers her music, her teaching, and the challenges she has faced as a rare female accordionist in the conjunto world. If you’ve never heard her play, check out the title track from her 1994 album, A Mi San Antonio:

Are You (Tex Mex) Experienced?

One band I missed in my SXSW accordion recap was Shawn Sahm and the Tex Mex Experience. As you might have guessed, Shawn is the son of the late Doug Sahm, founder of the Sir Douglas Quintet and Texas Tornados.

The Tex Mex Experience is quickly making a name for themselves with their high-energy, accordion-fueled Texas rock, and have opened shows for Los Lonely Boys, Robert Cray, and Susan Tedeschi. And this review of their SXSW showcase suggests they’re ready to break out:

“The fusion of all-out rock, hot-licks accordion and guitar, spot-on vocals and catchy, hook-laden songs is irresistible. If the business types from the music industry are worried about marketing a rock band with an accordion, they need to get over it, strap on their dancing shoes and unleash the Tex-Mex Experience.”

Here’s a live clip of the Tex Mex Experience playing “Why Doncha?”; watch for the accordion solo (by former Texmaniac Michael Guerra) halfway through.

Texas Folklife Accordion Contest

Think you’ve got what it takes to be the next accordion king or queen? If you’re a young (under 28), talented Texan accordion player — or know someone who is — visit the Texas Folklife website to learn more about their upcoming Big Squeeze competition.

The top prize is $1,000 ($500 and $250 to 2nd and 3rd place winners) and famed Texas director Hector Galán will film the competition for a documentary. The top three finalists will also squeeze their stuff in front of thousands at the 18th annual Accordion Kings & Queens concert on June 2nd at Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre. If you’re interested, hurry — entries are due by April 16th.

This Week in Accordion: KEDA Conjunto Fest

What’s on the accordion calendar this week?

A note to our friends north of the border: our calendar (finally) supports Canadian events! So whether it’s a polka dance in Medicine Hat or a musette revival in Montreal, let us know what’s going on in your area.

And don’t forget, Monday is the last day to enter our birthday contest. Post a comment to receive free Let’s Polka stickers and maybe even an accordion book or polka DVD. Everyone’s a winner!

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All-Star Tejano Accordion Jam

This year’s Tejano Music Awards will be held Saturday in San Antonio, but it’ll have a hard time matching the fireworks of this all-star accordion jam from the 1992 show. The video may be fuzzy, but the music is incredible. From left to right, the lineup includes David Lee Garza, David Farias, Pete Ybarra, Mingo Saldivar and Flaco Jimenez, who kicks things off with “Viva Seguin.”

[Found via the Reyes Accordions forums]

Los Tigres Still Have Bite

Like a norteño version of the Rolling Stones, Los Tigres del Norte show no signs of slowing down. Even after forty years and selling over 30 million records, the Hernández brothers (and cousin Oscar Lara) still play to packed houses night after night. In the late 60s and early 70s they revolutionized norteño music with electric instruments, pop/rock beats, and corridos about life on the border. Even today, Los Tigres don’t just sing to their audience, they sing about them — telling stories of the joys and heartaches of Mexican immigrants struggling to make it in America.

Last weekend, Los Tigres received glowing write-ups from both the Washington Post and the New York Times. The Washington Post article frames their story in the context of today’s immigration debate — showing how, despite their fame, they manage to stay close to their fans and stand up for them in their music. As bassist Hernán Hernández says, “People don’t just go [to our concerts] to party, they go for a purpose.” Don’t miss the excellent slideshow accompanying the article.

Meanwhile, the New York Times review of their concert at Brooklyn’s Bedford Armory depicts the bouncy, electric atmosphere of a show that lasted until 3am. Sounds like lead singer and accordionist Jorge Hernández had no trouble keeping the crowd going:

“… Adding stabs of accordion chords, he kept working through his battery of gestures of respect or supplication or triumph: doffing his cowboy hat and holding it out with arm fully extended, then putting it back in place, raising his fingers to his lips or his heart, putting forth a fist and shaking it once to signify firmness. He moved entirely in slow motion as the beat pumped behind him, and he was mesmerizing.”

Los Tigres del Norte have a new album due out on March 27 called Detalles y Emociones. The track below is from their most recent album, Historias Que Contar, which won “Best Norteño Album” at last weekend’s Grammys.

Grammy Winners: Sturr, Venegas

Grammy AwardAnother year, another “Best Polka Album” award for Jimmy Sturr, who won his 16th Grammy at tonight’s Grammy Awards. Mexican singer/accordionist Julieta Venegas took home “Best Latin Album” for Limon y Sal.

Other accordion-toting artists claiming Grammys tonight include the Klezmatics (“Best Contemporary World Music Album”), Los Tigres del Norte (“Best Norteño Album”), Chente Barrera y Taconazo (“Best Tejano Album”), and Bruce Springsteen (“Best Traditional Folk Album” for We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, which featured Charles Giordano on accordion). Check the full list of winners and let us know if we missed anyone.

Hohner’s New Diatonic Accordions

We got a hot tip that Hohner will be introducing some new diatonic accordion models at the NAMM show in Anaheim starting January 18. But thanks to our accordion spies, we have a sneak peek for you today! Check out these three new Hohner models:

Corona II Supreme

To celebrate Hohner’s 150 year anniversary in 2007, a special edition model of the Corona II will be unveiled at the NAMM show. The Corona II Supreme will include upgraded materials, smoother keyboard action, and an improved look and accessories based on the Corona II Classic. Since it’s a special edition, it will have a limited production run.

Hohner Corona II Supreme (white)

Hohner Corona II Supreme (black)

Freddy Fender Tribute in Austin

There’s a tribute to legendary Tex-Mex singer/songwriter Freddy Fender tomorrow night at Antone’s in Austin. The impressive lineup features plenty of accordion and includes Joe Ely, Little Joe y La Familia, Los Texmaniacs, Conjunto Aztlan, Johnny Degollado, Joel Guzman, Ruben Ramos, and more. Tickets are $10 and the show starts at 7pm.

If you can’t make it to Austin tomorrow night, check out this NPR tribute that includes some great interview clips with Freddy.

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