The Frontera Collection is an archive of over 160,000 songs documenting over 100 years of music from the border of the US and Mexico. The songs and stories represent life on either side of the border/Frontera. This week we will focus on key musicians that represent the bi-cultural perspective of the border. Their popularity with both English and Spanish speaking audiences highlight life in the communities that make up the Frontera.

Flaco Jimenez is considered a tradition bearer of the conjunto music tradition. The Spanish word conjunto means group and in Texas, Northern Mexico, and wherever Tejanos and Norteños have settled or worked, conjunto music means duet singing accompanied by accordion, bajo sexto, bass and drums. Mexicans usually call it Musica Norteña and Anglos like to refer it as Tex-Mex, but whatever the label, its country music with soulful lyrics and very danceable rhythms. Visit our photo gallery and see Flaco as he brought conjunto music to the world.

Visit the Flaco Jimenez Photo Gallery


Narciso Martínez

Born in Mexico but moved to Texas as a child, Narciso Martinez paid $12 for his first accordion. He learned to play from the local German and Czech families.  Nicknamed “El Huracán del Valle” (The Hurricane of the Valley) for his ability to record multiple songs during a single session, Narciso established the Texas-Mexican conjunto accordion sound. In 1946, he became the house accordionist for Ideal Records. He led his own band played on recordings with popular singers including Lydia Mendoza. No single accordionist was more influential or had more lasting impact. Narciso appeared in the film Chulas Fronteras and was the recipient of a 1983 National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Hear him in his own words describe his playing and the community that helped create this soulful music.

The Frontera Collection En Vivo is a monthly YouTube show featuring explorations into the collection.  In this week’s show, we will explore La Frontera, the line that separates two distinct cultures that each share the love for music made in and around this imaginary boundary.  We will be playing music from performers archived in the Frontera Collection that include both English and Spanish lyrics.  As the country celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month, we will continue to highlight the singers, songwriters and group that come from both sides of the bi-cultural diaspora.

Lydia Mendoza

Lydia Mendoza is considered the leading pioneer Tejano recording artist and the most enduring performer in the history of Mexican-American music. Born in Houston to parents who fled the chaos of the Mexican Revolution, she is one of the most important figures responsible for the popularization of Mexican-American music in the United States. Lydia performed tor thousands of fans, who came to love her as a songstress of the people. She was billed as “La Alondra de Ia Frontera,” the Meadowlark of the Border. From the Strachwitz Video Collection the Arhoolie Foundation Presents this rare footage of Lydia with Flaco Jimenez at the Smithsonian Institution in 1999.