|Santiago Jimenez Jr.|
"Don Patricio Jimenez, was the one that started all this circo, como dice uno (circus, like one says) late in the 1800s," said Santiago Jimenez Jr., 69.
Santiago Jimenez Sr. was the next one in line. He began recording accordion music during the 1930's. His polkas "Viva Seguin", "La Piedrera" and "La Nopalera" have since gone on to become standards in conjunto music. Then the next generation broke ground in the 1950's — Leonardo "Flaco" Jimenez and Santiago Jimenez Jr.
"I feel orgulloso (proud)," Santiago said of his family and their history in conjunto music. "I feel very proud of what I've been doing all my life. Music is my life."
Both brothers started playing at quinceañeras, parties and weddings during their teenager years. By the age of 17, Santiago recorded his first album with the help of his older brother in 1961. Santiago played the accordion while Flaco, 21 at the time, accompanied him on the bajo-sexto. The album was titled El Rey y El Principe de La Musica Norteña; it was released on Lira Records. It would be the only album that the two brothers would collaborate on.
The two brothers would both become icons in their own, distinct ways. Flaco branched out to different genres and towards a modernized sound. Santiago has kept his style as close to its roots as any musician alive today.
"Un estilo unico," is how Santiago describes his unique style. "There is no other bands that compete with my style, because they don't play it."
One thing that sets Santiago apart from his peers, including his brother, is his choice in accordion. Jimenez makes a particular claim and as far as I can tell, it's true. There are no other, well-known modern-day accordionists in Tejano, conjunto or Tex-Mex music that use a two-row button diatonic accordion.
"My dad used to play two-row accordions all his life, he never did use a three-row," Santiago said. Other pioneers like Narciso Martinez and Pedro Ayala, started with a two-row before acquiring three-row accordions. "So I went back to buy me a two-row button accordion, like my dad and since then, I've been playing two-row."
With a Hohner Erica two-row, Santiago has established himself as the heir of his father's style. I point out to him that I've noticed that he likes to use the left-hand, bass-side of the accordion, something that is rarely seen in this genre of music. He explains that he is not happy without the bass, and how it's very important for him to have that additional layer of sound.
Santiago said that he has more than 80 releases to his name at this point in his career. Those releases include LPs, 45s, 8-tracks, cassette tapes and CDs. He's working on a new album right now, in his small, home recording studio. He's an analog-type of man.
"It's a studio, like you can mix it with frijoles, tacos, and tortillas, y todo ese jale (and all that stuff)," Santiago laughs. "Reel to Reel, I don't record with digital or nada de eso (none of that). I am using the original, the way we use to record."
I've never heard anyone compare their recording studio to homemade Mexican cuisine. It's a unique, clever comparison. Both music and food have a huge place within our culture, with family get-togethers and celebrations revolving around both. They each have family traditions attached to them. Also, nothing goes better with conjunto music than this type of food. I can't be the only one that wants to eat nopales when listening to "La Nopalera". Only thing Santiago forgot to mention in his comparison was la cerveza (the beer). Or maybe the preferred word would bebironga (slang word for beer).
Santiago feels that by playing and recording music in this manner, he's preserving the memory of his legendary father.
"That's why I never have changed my style," Santiago said. "So I started playing like my dad. Not identical, because you can not play like the original person but almost identical."
Friday, October 18, 2013
Karisma 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Ole Treviño y Los Imposibles 7:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Eddie “Lalo” Torres con Anita Paiz 8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Conjunto Aztlan 9:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Los Pinkys w/ special guest Susan Torres 10:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Saturday, October 19, 2013
Conjunto Estrella, San Benito High School 4:15 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Ramiro Cavazos y Los Donnenos 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Bene Medina y Conjunto Aguila 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Edgar Vásquez y Sus Muchachos 7:00p.m. – 8:30p.m.
Los Ángeles Del Sur 8:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
Santiago Jiménez y Su Conjunto 10:00 p.m – 11:00 p.m.
Sunday, October 20, 2013
Frutty Villarreal y Los Mavericks 4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.
Gilberto Pérez y Sus Compadres 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Boni Mauricio y Los Maximos 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Rubén De La Cruz y Su Conjunto 7:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Los Garcia Brothers 8:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.
The Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Center
22nd Annual Narciso Martinez Cultural Arts Festival Conjunto Festival
When: Friday, October 18, 2013 6:00 pm – 11:00 p.m.
Saturday October 19, 2013 4:00 pm – 11:00 p.m.
Sunday October 20, 2013 4:00 pm - 9:30 p.m.
Where: 225 E. Stenger Street San Benito, Texas
Cost: $5.00 per day
Website and Phone Number: https://www.facebook.com/nmcacsb and 956-367-0335 (Rogelio Nuñez).