Norteño (music)

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Ramon Ayala, a norteño musician known as the "King of the Accordion", has recorded over 113 albums and is one of the best-selling norteño artists.
Los Tigres Del Norte performing at a Californian casino in 2006; with over 32 million records sold and 7 Grammy awards, they are arguably the most popular Norteño group worldwide.

Norteño or Norteña (Spanish pronunciation: [noɾˈteɲo], northeren), also música norteña, is a genre of Mexican music from Northern Mexico, hence the name. The music is most often based on a polka or waltz tempo and its lyrics often deal with socially relevant topics. The famous corridos are considered Norteña music. The accordion and the bajo sexto are norteño's most characteristic instruments, but the genre can include brass bands (banda music) as well. Norteña music developed in the late 19th century, as a mixture between German folk music (which was introduced to Mexico with the arrival of German migrant workers in those years), and local Northern Mexican music.

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 and in Spain. Though originating from rural areas, norteño is popular in both urban and rural areas.

Some popular norteño artists include Ramón Ayala, Cornelio Reyna, Intocable, Los Invasores de Nuevo León, Los Cadetes de Linares, Los Alegres de Terán, Los Tigres del Norte, Los Huracanes del Norte, Los Rieleros del Norte, La Leyenda, 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 repertoire covers canción ranchera, corrido, balada, cumbia, huapango norteño, polka, redova and chotís [es].[1]



  • Ranchera polka (2
    ) – "Carta Abierta"
  • Ranchera vals (3
    ) – "Tragos amargos"
  • Corrido polka (2
    ) – "Contrabando y traición"
  • Corrido vals (3
    ) – "Gerardo González"
  • Corrido mazurka (6
    ) – "Catalino y los rurales"
  • Bolero (4
    ) - "Mi tesoro"


  • Huapango norteño (6
    ) – "El texanito", "El Mezquitón"
  • Polka (2
    ) – "El Circo"
  • Chotis (4
    ) – "El Cerro de la Silla"
  • Redova (3
    ) – "De China a Bravo"



Dress to dance polka and redova from Nuevo León, displayed at the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City

Emperor Maximilian I was the first[dubious ] to bring the music of Middle Europe 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. 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 from Germany, Poland, & Czech Republic 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[edit]

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.

Related genres[edit]


While the saxophone has historically been an optional instrument in traditional norteño music, there have been a number of artists who have used it consistently. Early artists include Los Rancheritos del Topo Chico, Los Gorriones del Topo Chico and Los Montañeses del Álamo. Later artists include Los Rieleros del Norte, Conjunto Primavera, Los Norteños de Ojinaga, Los Jilgueros del Arroyo, Polo Urías y Su Máquina Norteña, Conjunto Azabache, Pepe Tovar y Sus Chacales and Conjunto Río Grande. More recent artists include La Maquinaria Norteña, La Energía Norteña, La Reunión Norteña, La Alianza Norteña, Los Pescadores del Río Conchos, La Fiera de Ojinaga, Conjunto Nube, La Zenda Norteña, Grupo Legítimo, among others. The popularity of Norteño artists who incorporate the saxophone into their instrumental line-up has become so big in recent years, that it has essentially become its own subgenre.


In recent years, a number of Norteño artists have included a sousaphone to play the bass notes in their music instead of an electric bass or tololoche, thus creating the fusion sub genre of Norteño-Banda, also known as Bandeño. This style includes the likes of artists such as Calibre 50, Voz de Mando, Revólver Cannabis, Colmillo Norteño, Código FN, Los Gfez and Impacto Sinaloense.


A different regional Mexican subgenre different from Norteño is Sierreño. It was created and popularized in the 1980s and its popularity spread throughout Mexico. There are essentially two styles of Sierreño: One from Northwestern Mexico where the main instrument is the acoustic twelve-string guitar, and one from Southwestern Mexico where the main instrument is the acoustic six-string guitar.

Northwestern Sierreño includes a acoustic twelve-string guitar which is used for the melody of the music, followed by an acoustic six-string guitar for the harmony and an acoustic or electric bass for the low notes. A different variation is that an accordion and/or saxophone are used for the melody, while the twelve-string or six-string guitar is used for the harmony. The bass can be substituted with a tololoche. Unlike Norteño, Sierreño typically does not include drums. This style includes artists such as Miguel y Miguel, Los Nietos de Sinaloa, Los Alegres de la Sierra, Los Hijos de Barrón, Los Dareyes de la Sierra, Contraste Sierreño, Tercer Elemento, Los Traviezoz de la Zierra and Los Cuates de Sinaloa.

Southwestern Sierreño just includes six string guitars. An acoustic one for the melody, followed by one or two acoustic or classical ones for the harmony, and an acoustic or electric bass for the low notes. Artist in this style include ones such as Dueto Bertín y Lalo, Impacto Sierreño, Los Armadillos de la Sierra, Sentimiento Sierreño, Los Benítez de la Sierra, Código de la Sierra and Dueto Dos Rosas.

A variation of both styles of Sierreño is when there is a band with only two members, a duo, in which one member plays the twelve-string or six-string guitar for the melody, while the other plays secondary guitar for the harmony.



Modern norteño has also diverged significantly from more original "oldie" norteño of pre-1950s 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. In 2014 Los Tigres del Norte released the album Realidades, which contains the song “Era Diferente” (meaning “She Was Different”) about a lesbian teenager who falls in love with her best friend; according to lead singer and songwriter Jorge Hernández, this is the first time a norteño group has ever written a gay love song.[2][3]

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."

Regional styles[edit]

A norteño ensemble in Baja California, Mexico, consisting of an accordion, a tololoche and a snare drum ("tarola").

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 mariachi and banda, respectively. Chihuahua and Zacatecas norteño often combines the saxophone and the 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.

List of notable artists[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (1988). Atlas cultural de México: Música. Mexico D. F.: Secretaría de Educación Pública, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia : Grupo Editorial Planeta. ISBN 978-968-406-121-7.[page needed]
  2. ^ "Realidades - Los Tigres del Norte | Releases". AllMusic. 2014-10-07. Retrieved 2015-03-25.
  3. ^ Yezmin Villarreal (2015-03-21). "Los Tigres del Norte Are Making Gay Norteño History". Retrieved 2015-03-25.