Tejano Music on the Austin Airwaves

I remember being a child and discovering the window to the world: radio. I'd occasionally just scan down the dial, as I often still do, and make cursory investigations of every signal to see what treasures I could turn up. My stops at the Tejano stations were always brief -- no point, I figured, in wasting time on music I couldn't understand.

Now I wish I'd lingered a little. In a sense, I've begun to understand Tejano music. No, my Spanish comprehension skills are still pathetic, but you don't really need to speak the language to get it. If you can feel the vibrancy of the accordion pulsing through your veins, if the rhythm of the bajo sexto starts your hips moving, if you take pride in appreciating this Texas contribution to America's cultural landscape, then you are fluent enough. Here in Austin, the radio selections for Tejano music are limited, yet somewhat diverse at the same time.

On the commercial end of the dial, listeners face a situation similar to that of Austin's country radio fans; the two major Tejano outlets are owned by the same company. Joe Garcia, Jr., owns both KKLB (92.5 FM) and KTXZ (1560 AM) -- the latter purch-ased recently from KTBC news anchor Neal Spelce -- but he's trying to cover somewhat different ground with the two. (He also owns KELG at 1440 AM, which has a more international bent.) KKLB and KTXZ deejay David "Dave the Wave" Rios outlined the differences between the two stations.

"For KKLB we play Mazz, Emilio, David Lee Garza, La Diferenzia," says Rios, "and lots of Selena. On KTXZ we play classic Tejano, like Roy Montelongo, Little Joe -- stuff from the Sixties and Seventies."

But again, much like the country situation, fans of historic Tejano and hard-core conjunto -- meaning even earlier than the "classic" period that Rios describes -- may want to turn to community stations, specifically KOOP 91.7 FM. Every Tuesday morning from 10am to noon, Lupe Cedillos spins the likes of Valerio Longoria, Narciso Martinez, and more contemporary practitioners of the style like Flaco and Santiago Jimenez or Tony De La Rosa. Cedillos took over the show earlier this year after Antonio "Pancho del Rancho" Guerrero moved to McAllen. She admits she isn't as knowledgeable about Tejano as Pancho was, but is quickly learning.

"I grew up with it," Cedillos says, "but I hadn't listened to it in years. I knew more about African music." Much like me, she has gleaned a lot of her knowledge from the thoroughly researched and deeply detailed liner notes that Chris Strachwitz does for Arhoolie Records. KOOP also features some Tejano -- mixed with other Spanish musics -- on "Fiesta Musical," Sundays, 1-3pm, hosted by Isidoro Lopez (not to be confused with Isidro Lopez, the legendary orquesta musician from Corpus Christi).

So, stop scanning for a moment and listen; through that window which is radio, there's another world waiting for your discovery.

-- Lee Nichols

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