“Dance! Hell yeah, we dance!” is how Margarita Garza of Houston described why she and a large group of her family and friends made their way to the three-day Tejano Conjunto Festival (TCF), held early every May in Rosedale Park in San Antonio. She isn’t alone. Dancing is at the heart of this festival, and at most times during the weekend the floor is so packed it can be hard to move.
Conjunto music is the sound of Mexican-American South Texas, a fast, powerful, and virtuosic music played with the three-row button accordion, bajo sexto or bajo quinto (12- or 10-string bass), bass, and drums. Conjunto is a compelling music, and as danceable as it comes. It originated on the west side of San Antonio, so the festival is held on something akin to sacred musical ground.
This festival may not be the only conjunto festival in Texas (another prominent one is the annual Narciso Martinez Conjunto Festival each September in San Benito, and they occur all over the state), but it is definitely the most important. People from San Antonio and from across Texas and the world come to the festival to celebrate the rich regional music legacy at its birthplace, to dance, and to have the good times that are the true core of conjunto music. As Ricky Naranjo, son of the accordion great Ruben Naranjo and a fine player himself, put it from the stage, “Conjunto music! This is what we love! This is what we play! This is who we are!”