Mexican conjunto music, also known as conjunto tejano, was born out of south Texas at the end of the 19th century, after German settlers introduced the button accordion. The bajo sexto has come to accompany the button accordion and is integral to the conjunto sound. Many conjuntos are concentrated in the Southwestern portion of the United States, primarily in Texas and California. In Mexico the term conjunto is associated with Norteño and Tejano music. Since Tejano was bred out of Norteño music originally this association is not entirely false. However, due to various cultural and socioeconomic developments in the 1900s, Norteño musicians began trailblazing the Tejano genre as a tangent to conjunto.
In the United States and Mexico, a conjunto band is composed of four main instruments: the button accordion, the bajo sexto, an electric bass, and a drum kit. They are popular in northern Mexico and southern Texas. German and East European settlers brought their accordions, waltzes and polkas to the region, which were adapted by the local population. Texas accordion player Flaco Jiménez is probably the best-known conjunto musician in the United States, with a career spanning sixty years and earning him five Grammy awards. Chulas Fronteras is a documentary film from the 1970s which illustrates how the music meshed into the lives of families in south Texas and northern Mexico.
Cuban conjunto music was developed in the 1940s by famous tres player Arsenio Rodríguez by adding several instruments (a double bass, a bongó, a tumbadora, two to four trumpets and a guitar) to the typical son cubano ensemble. Even though the origins of the conjunto cubano can be traced to several sextetos and septetos of the 1920s, it wasn't until the 1940s when Arsenio Rodríguez expanded the Sexteto Bellamar that the conjunto was established. However, some authors argue that the Conjunto Kubavana, conducted by Alberto Ruiz, was the very first Cuban conjunto, founded around 1937. The conjunto contrasted with ballroom orchestras, the charangas, orquestas and danzoneras that were made popular by bandleaders such as Antonio Arcaño.
Conjunto music was crucial in the early development of salsa. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Puerto Rican music scene in New York City revolved around charangas such as Charlie Palmieri's Duboney Orchestra. Their music was largely based on Cuban styles such as mambo, chachachá and, most importantly, pachanga. Key charanga flutist, bandleader and entrepreneur Johnny Pacheco switched from the charanga configuration to the conjunto in 1964. However, the first New York-based conjunto was Eddie Palmieri's "La Perfecta", which had its debut in 1962. These conjuntos would be crucial in the early development of the most successful Latin American music genre to date, salsa. Notably, the introduction of Puerto Rican music styles such as bomba and plena within the conjunto and Cuban music in general resulted in what is known today as salsa.
- Ragland, Cathy (2009). Música Norteña: Mexican Migrants Creating a Nation between Nations. Philadelphia: Temple Press. ISBN 978-1-59213-746-6.
- Torres, George. Encyclopedia of Latin American Popular Music. 2013.
- Ordoqui García, Joaquín. "Conjunto Kubavana: Primer Conjunto Sonero de Cuba". Herencia Latina.
- "Playing From the Heart", WBGU-PBS documentary featuring a Conjunto musician.
- "Conjunto definition"
- "Accordion Dreams", PBS documentary covering the history of Conjunto music up to the 1990s