Latin music going full circle post-Selena

By Helena Rodriguez

I’m the black sheep in my family.

There’s been an ongoing feud between my sisters, my dad and I, with all of them against lonesome me in a battle of the bands. We argue over what kind of regional Spanish music rules: The Mexican border-based, working-class sound of Norteño music, which is popular in this area, or my favorite, the pop, hip-hop and country-infused sound of Tejano, a genre popularized by the late Selena Quintanilla Perez.

Contrary to what some people think, not all Spanish music is the same. Most of it sounds nothing like the rock-infused rifts of Carlos Santana, Los Lonely Boys or the 1999 commercial pop of Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez.

Thursday marked the 10th anniversary of the death of Tejano music queen Selena, so this is a good time to talk about how Latin music is going full circle. I’m predicting another Tejano music explosion in the near future.

According to Nielsen Soundscan, Selena — who performed at the old Boot Hill in Clovis six months before her death in 1995 and at the old La Mulita in Muleshoe in the 1980s — is considered one of the top five Latin recording artists of all time. Even a decade after her sensational death, six new Selena-related CD packages have been or will soon be released, and a star-studded Selena tribute is planned for April 7 in Houston with Gloria Estefan, Thalia, A.B. Quintanilla & the Kumbia Kings, Pepe Aguilar and more.

At the time of Selena’s death, Tejano music was the fastest-growing brand of Latin music in the U.S. Needless to say, Tejano lost its spark soon after and last month the Tejano Music Awards, which used to be held at the Alamodome in San Antonio, was staged at a casino in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Tejano record sales, with the exception of Selena CDs, quickly dipped in sales as Norteño CDs and concerts skyrocketed. This was not only influenced by an influx in Mexican immigrants but by a line of fresh new bands such as Los Tigrillos, and innovations by longtime Norteño bands, such as Los Tigres del Norte and Los Huracanes del Norte of Portales, who were able to keep their music sounding fresh.

Even major music stores such as Hastings expanded their regional Mexican music shelves, stocking them mostly with Norteño bands.

You can bet I became even more of an outcast at family gatherings. I had to beg just to hear songs from my Ruben Ramos, Garcia Brothers and CDs by Jay Perez. Now I can tolerate a little bit of Norteño music, but to a point.

All hope has not been lost though. The commercialization of Latin music in the U.S. seems to be here to stay and, according to my friend Ramiro Burr, a Latin music critic for the San Antonio Express-News, music comes and goes in cycles. Lately, I’ve been seeing signs of a Tejano music comeback.

First, it was Tejano singers making remakes of old Norteño songs, namely those of Ramon Ayala. But Norteño bands are now recording songs first recorded by Tejano artists. I recently heard a remake of Selena’s “No Me Queda Mas.” I think it was by Ramon Ayala.

A Latin music trend I’ve been eagerly waiting for is a boom in Spanish Christian. Lately, I’ve been into Tejano Christian or what I call “cumbias for Christ” — toe-tapping numbers with a message by Arturo Rubal, Nacho Galindo and Ruben Ramos.

Like rap and hip-hop, Norteño music videos typically portray women as sex objects, another reason I’m not crazy about the genre. In fact, CNN recently conducted a poll on hip-hop and most respondents agreed it is degrading to women. Now most men would consider Selena sexy, but not vulgar. She relied more on her God-given talent.

The music industry, like other industries, has been quick to capitalize on the growing Hispanic market. I hope it will focus on quality rather than quantity.

Helena Rodriguez is a columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: