Norteño (music)

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.

N o r t e ñ o
A traditional Norteño ensemble: accordion, bajo sextow and tololoche.
Stylistic originsIn Mexico: In Europe:
Cultural originsNorthern Mexico
Typical instruments
Norteño-Banda, Norteño-Sax
Other topics
Ramón Ayala
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 1
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.


The norteño repertoire covers canción ranchera, corrido, balada, cumbia, huapango norteño, polka, redova and chotís.[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 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

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


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 sub-genre.


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 sub-genre different from Norteño is Sierreño. It was created and popularized in the 1980s and its popularity spread throughout Mexico. There are essentially two types 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-style 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-style 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

Norteno BC
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

See also


  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.
  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.
Calibre 50

Calibre 50 is a Mexican conjunto of norteño music created in the city of Mazatlán, Sinaloa, in the year of 2010. The group is also considered to be "Norteño-Banda", as it features a Tuba to play the bass notes, instead of an electrical bass or a Tololoche, which are more commonly used in Norteño music.

Chicken scratch

Chicken scratch (also known as waila music) is a kind of dance music developed by the Tohono O'odham people. The genre evolved out of acoustic fiddle bands in southern Arizona, in the Sonoran desert. These bands began playing European and Mexican tunes, in styles that include the polka, schottisch and mazurka.Chicken scratch, however, is at its root, an interpretation of norteño music, which is itself a Mexican adaptation of polka. Many chicken scratch bands still play polka songs with a distinctive flourish, and may also play the waltz or conjunto. Chicken scratch dance is based on the "walking two step or the walking polka and the emphasis is on a very smooth gliding movement"; dancers may also perform the mazurka or the chote, though no matter the style, it is always performed counterclockwise.Chicken scratch is usually played with a band including alto saxophone, bass, guitar, drums and accordion, though the original style used only percussion, guitar and violin, with the accordion and saxophone added in the 1950s. Its home is the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and Gila River Indian Community.

The term waila comes from Spanish bailar, meaning to dance. The term chicken scratch comes from a description of traditional Tohono O'odham dance, which involves kicking the heels high in the air, which supposedly bears a resemblance to a chicken scratching.The most famous performers are likely the Joaquín Brothers, Los Papagos Molinas with Virgil Molina, and Southern Scratch. The Annual Waila Festival in Tucson, Arizona, is well-known, as is the Rock-A-Bye Music Fest in Casa Grande, Arizona. Canyon Records and Rock-A-Bye Records are the best known labels for the genre.

In 2011, a "Best Waila" category was added to the Native American Music Awards.

Chulas Fronteras

Chulas Fronteras is a documentary film from 1976 which tells the story of the norteño or conjunto music which is played on both sides of the Mexico–Texas border. It was directed by Les Blank. A CD soundtrack of the music played in the film is also available, under the same title.

In 1993, this film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


Duelo is a norteño band from Roma, Texas. The band is also known as Grupo Duelo and Duelo Norteño. The group rose to prominence in the late 1990s and continues to record as of 2009, when their album Necesito Más de Ti debuted in the top slot on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart.

Dueto Voces del Rancho

Dueto Las Voces del Rancho (Spanish: The Two Voices of the Ranch) is a Norteño band.

The band consists of a duet that has Edgar Rodriguez and Mariano Fernandez as its members. They play many traditional Norteñas, but with a uniquely contemporary style.

Grammy Award for Best Banda or Norteño Album

The Grammy Award for Best Banda or Norteño Album was an award presented at the 2012 Grammy Awards, but was discontinued after that.

When established in 2012, the award was the result of a major restructuring of Grammy categories, announced in 2011. It was the Recording Academy's wish to decrease the list of categories and awards, as the list had grown to well over 100 awards by 2011. According to the Academy, "it was determined that musical distinctions among some of the regional Mexican subgenres were often very difficult to draw, so the restructuring in categories was warranted". This award combined the previous categories for Best Banda Album and Best Norteno Album. Other Latin categories were also either merged or discontinued.

Further restructuring took place in 2012 (and was implemented in the 2013 Grammy Award season). According to the Academy, "Best Banda or Norteño Album and Best Regional Mexican or Tejano Album are now merged into one category: Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano), for albums containing at least 51 percent playing time of new vocal or instrumental regional Mexican (banda, norteño, corridos, gruperos, mariachi, ranchera, and Tejano) recordings." As a result, the Best Banda or Norteño Album category was discontinued.

Grammy Award for Best Norteño Album

The Grammy Award for Best Norteño Album was an honor presented to recording artists at the 51st, 52nd and 53rd Grammy Awards (2009–2011) for quality norteño music albums. The Grammy Awards, an annual ceremony that was established in 1958 and originally called the Gramophone Awards, are presented by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to "honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position".Prior to the establishment of the Best Norteño Album category, norteño recordings were eligible to compete in the Best Mexican/Mexican American Album category. The award will be discontinued from 2012 in a major overhaul of Grammy categories. In 2011, the Recording Academy announced the retirement of the award category. Beginning in 2012, norteño recordings will be eligible for the newly formed Grammy Award for Best Banda or Norteño Album category.


Intocable (Untouchable) is an American Tejano music and Norteño musical group from Zapata, Texas that was started by friends Ricardo Javier Muñoz and René Orlando Martínez in the early 1990s. In a few years, Intocable rose to the top of the Tejano and Norteño fields with a musical signature that fused Tejano's robust conjunto and Norteño folk rhythms with a pop balladry. Intocable is perhaps the most influential group in Tejano and their tough Tejano/Norteño fusion has become the blueprint for dozens of Tex-Mex groups. The group's style, which combines romantic, hooky melodies, tight instrumentation and vocal harmony, is consistently imitated by other Tejano and Norteño groups, including Imán, Costumbre, Solido, Estruendo, Intenso, Duelo and Zinzero.

Career accomplishments include four consecutive sold-out nights at Mexico City's prestigious Auditorio Nacional and the group's 2003 headlining appearance at Reliant Stadium in Houston, which drew a record 70,104 fans. They also play every year as tradition with two sold-out dates (lately three) at the 10,000-capacity Monterrey Arena in Monterrey, Mexico —an unusual accomplishment given that Norteño groups typically play large dance halls and rarely arenas unless it's an all day festival event. Intocable has also won at least eight of Univision's Premio Lo Nuestro awards. They received their first Grammy win in February 2005 at the 47th Annual Grammys (Grammy Award for Best Mexican/Mexican-American Album; Intimamente) and second at the 53rd annual Grammys for their album Classic.

They were the first of their genre to play at Dallas Cowboys Stadium, at the halftime show of the 2011 Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins game, also at The Greek Theatre, Los Angeles. They garnered two of the 5 nominations to the Billboard Regional Mexican Awards and got a nod for Best Norteño Album to the 2011 Latin Grammy for their album INTOCABLE 2011. They were also nominated for a Grammy for the album. INTOCABLE 2011 was released under the group's own music label Good-i Music and the first two singles, Robarte Un Beso and Prometí, went to Number 1 on US regional radio charts. The 3rd single Arrepientete also did very well on radio and their 4th single Llueve was premiered live onstage at the 2012 Premio lo Nuestro where the group swept with all three categories they were nominated for.

On October 12, 2015, Intocable made history, by streaming a showcase for the whole world, in which more than 22,000 people enjoyed a unique evening from the comfort of their homes. 100% of the proceeds were donated to St. Jude Hospital to help children affected with cancer; there the inception of #AyudaAAyudar was formed and will continue to do events to raise funds for this noble cause.

On January 23, 2016, Intocable announced their partnership with St.Jude, a pledge first of its kind in the music industry. After witnessing firsthand the groundbreaking research done at St. Jude, Intocable knew they had to help the organization in any capacity possible. Today, their support will not only create awareness for the cause, but their pledge of support will contribute to assure that families pay for nothing and can focus on letting their child live.

Intocable headlined SXSW 2016 SXAmericas All Latino Showcase, making Intocable the first Latino artist to headline this three-day series of charity beneficiary concert events. The group took over the largest SXSW stage, which attracted more than 50,000 attendees over the three-day period.

In the early 1990s, the band's first indie albums barely sold. In February 1994 their album Fuego Eterno, with new label EMI Latin, had notable sales. The music of Ramón Ayala influenced the direction of the band. The band's lead vocalist and accordion player, Ricky Muñoz has stated that Ayala is his biggest inspiration. In 1997, the band suffered a setback when two members of the band left to form their own group—Johnny Lee Rosas, (bajo sexto and 2nd voice), and Albert Ramirez, (bass), formed Grupo Masizzo. Rosas rejoined the group in 2003 after four successful solo albums.


KMMZ (101.3 FM, "La Caliente 101.3") is an American radio station licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to serve Crane, Texas, which is part of the Midland–Odessa metropolitan area. KMMZ is owned by Maria Teresa and Humberto Jimenez, through licensee Permian Basin Broadcasting, LLC.Formerly an Adult Standards station known as "Memories 101.3," the current Spanish norteño music music format began in early 2007.


KSAH, KSAH-FM (720 kHz, 104.1 MHz), is an American AM/FM combination radio station, serving the San Antonio metropolitan area. The AM station is licensed to Universal City, Texas, and the FM station is licensed to Pearsall, Texas. The stations are currently owned by Alpha Media and the station licenses are held by Alpha Media Licensee, LLC. KSAH-AM-FM broadcast a Spanish-language Regional Mexican music format, specializing in Norteño music.

The studios and offices are located in Northeast San Antonio. The AM station's transmitter site is south of Zuehl, Texas, off Stolte Road. KSAH is powered at 50,000 watts by day, the maximum power for commercial AM stations in the U.S. But because AM 720 is a clear channel frequency reserved for Class A WGN Chicago, KSAH must reduce power at night to 1,000 watts to avoid interference. The station uses a directional antenna around the clock.

Liberman Broadcasting tower (Era, Texas)

Liberman Broadcasting Tower, Era, is a 2,000-foot-tall (609.6 m) guyed mast located at 33°29'05.5" N and 97°24'44.8" W in Cooke County, Texas, USA. It was built in 2006 and is used for emergency communication and commercial radio broadcasting. Currently, it is used for storm tracking communications and primarily serves as the transmitter for KNOR-FM, 93.7 “La Raza,” a Spanish-language music station playing “Norteño” music (roughly comparable to Contemporary Country in English).

Situated on a private ranch about 7 miles west of Era (north of the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex), Liberman Broadcasting Tower, Era, is one of earth's tallest structures (tied for sixth with several other guyed masts); and as of May 2007 was the tallest structure in Texas.

The tower is named for its proximity to Era, though it is much closer to the small communities of Rosston and Leo in unincorporated Cooke County. The tower is now called Tall Towers Venture-Era after the new owners. Liberman sold the tower to Tall Towers Venture, LLC in 2013.

Los Donneños

Los Donneños were a 1950s Mexican Norteño guitar, accordion and song duo formed by Ramiro Cavazos and Mario Montes and named after Donna, Texas. Ramiro Cavazos was lead singer and played guitar or bajo sexto. Mario Montes was second voice and played accordion. On some recordings they were joined by a string bass player, Rafael Gaspar.

Cavazos met Montes while working as a migrant laborer near Donna, Texas. They had been acquainted through their manual labor, but joined forces musically after Cavazos noticed Montes playing music by the side of the road. They formed a duet named after the Texas town, and continued to work as migrant laborers even after making records for Falcon Records and developing a following that spanned both sides of the United States-Mexican border. In the 1970s & 1980s Ramiro Cavazos had a record store on South 23rd Street in McAllen, Texas.

Los Huracanes del Norte

Los Huracanes del Norte are a Mexican Norteño group, originally from Yahualica de González Gallo, Jalisco and raised in Tangancícuaro, Michoacán, but based out of San Jose, California, United States. They are one of the genre's most popular performers.

The group first formed under the name Los Cuatro del Norte in 1969 by three brothers and a fourth member; a fourth brother joined in 1972. Their debut record was released in 1973; they scored their first gold record in 1978. With the growth of their success they toured regularly through the U.S., Mexico, and Central America. They continued to release charting records into the 2000s. Los Huracanes del Norte have released over 900 songs.

Louie Pérez

Louis Frausto Pérez, Jr. (born January 29, 1953) is an American songwriter, percussionist and guitarist for Los Lobos and Latin Playboys.Pérez started with Los Lobos playing primarily jarana (a small Mexican guitar) and singing. He is one of the founding members of Los Lobos, established in 1973. As Los Lobos ventured into Norteño music and rock, Pérez became the drummer, first with just a snare drum. In 1990, Victor Bisetti was hired to be a combination drum tech, drum coach and percussionist. As time went on, Bisetti took a more active role as drummer, allowing Pérez to move back to the front of the stage and start playing guitar. Bisetti was replaced in 2003 by Ruben (Cougar) Estrada. Estrada was replaced by Enrique "Bugs" Gonzalez in 2013.

Pérez continues to be Los Lobos' primary lyricist. He also paints in his free time and has been the art director and artistic supervisor on many of Los Lobos' albums.

Necesito Más de Ti

Necesito Más de Ti ("I Need More Of You") is the title of a studio album released by norteño music band Duelo. This album became their first number-one set on the Billboard Top Latin Albums.

Ramón Ayala

Ramón Covarrubias Garza (born December 8, 1945), known by his stage name Ramón Ayala, is a Mexican musician, composer and songwriter of Norteño and Conjunto music. Known as the "King of the Accordion," Ayala has recorded over 113 albums for which he has received four Grammy Awards. Additionally, Ayala has been featured in thirteen movies. A legend of norteño music, Ayala is one of the most recognized and best-selling artists of this genre of Mexican music, breaking many sales records along the way.

Sin Riendas

Sin Riendas (Eng.: Without Ties) is the title of a studio album released by norteño music group Bronco. This album became their third number-one set on the Billboard Top Latin Albums.

Tejano Music Award for Album of the Year – Norteño

The Tejano Music Award for Album of the Year – Norteño (formerly the Tejano Music Award for Album of the Year – Conjunto Norteño) is an honor presented annually by the Texas Talent Musicians Association (TTMA). The award was established during the rise of norteño music in the early 2000s decade. Musicians who were performers of conjunto music were also nominated for the award when it was first given out at the 24th awards ceremony, and were no longer eligible to be nominated after the TMA brought back the Tejano Music Award for Album of the Year – Conjunto at the 27th awards ceremony.

Current holder, Siggno holds the record with most wins at two. Girl group Las Fenix, remains the only female musicians to have been nominated as of 2016.

Vámonos Pa'l Río

Vámonos Pa'l Río (Eng.: Let's Go To The River) is the title of a studio album released by norteño music band Los Pikadientes de Caborca. This album became their first number-one set on the Billboard Top Latin Albums. It received a nomination for Best Regional Mexican Album at the Grammy Awards of 2009.


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