I just got back from a few days in South Texas, one of my favorite places to be because of the music, the people, and, not a distant third, the food.

I love it that people always say "I wish I knew you were coming, I would have made some barbeque!"  I especially like this when people say it the first time I meet them, which has happened several times.

Most anyone reading this blog or talking to me knows I have a passion for conjunto music, which is the main reason I went down there.

I was in San Antonio talking to Santiago Jimenez, Jr., working on his autobiography (which is going to be of the as-told-to variety).  We had some seriously fascinating conversations over many hours, covering his life and music and also that of his legendary father, Don Santiago Jimenez.  This book is going to be a remarkable document, I am really happy with how it is coming together.

 I'd tell you all about it-- but you'll have to wait for the book!  In the meantime, I thought a few photos would be worthwhile.

One of the most interesting things we did was go through the Santiago's old neighborhood on the West Side.  Here he  is in front of his old house, 1619 Saltillo Road.

 He lived here starting in 1959, with his parents and 7 siblings. They later moved across the street and lived at  a house at the Good Samaritan Center.  The road was a narrow dirt track wide enough only for one car at the time when they lived here.

We also took a really fascinating trip to Seguin to look at the places Don Santiago played at regularly during his heyday, and also the clubs where Santiago Jr played. 

In case you don't know, the national anthem of conjunto music is Santiago, Sr's "Viva Seguin." Every conjunto plays it, as standard as they come.

Santiago loaded a video of himself playing it:

Notice his use of the the two row accordion, which is what his father played.  Nobody plays two row anymore except Santiago.  Another key part of his playing that is directly in the lineage of his father is the use of bass buttons.  Modern players almost never play the bajos, and many actually even remove the reeds.

Almost all of the places that Don Santiago played in Seguin are gone, now empty lots or fields or overgrown wooded areas.  This is a serious erasure of the infrastructure of a critical period of time.  These are the equivalent of historic juke joints or places on the Chitlin Circuit.  If people didn't remember these places then the existence of these legendary locales would be totally forgotten.  There are a great many old timers in Seguin who remember going to dances where Santiago, Sr., played.  I even met people who knew or were related to the woman named "Margarita" for whom Santiago wrote his polka of the same name.  I am not aware of an oral history project of the area but it is something that needs to be (and soon!)

Santiago Sr. used to play for big dances at a pool in Seguin, but it is long gone.  Part of the foundation of it remains.  That is the diving board platform on the right.

This was once a club that was known as a particularly rough place where people were shot and killed during dances, now it is a house. 

Every Sunday nowadays, Santiago plays at a restaurant on the West Side called Carnitas Uruapan.  The music is only accordion and bajo sexto and it is perfect.

I have a lot of footage of it from a  couple of different Sundays and will put some up here once I get it loaded onto youtube (hopefully soon, but it may be a bit).  To my ear, this is the best place to go hear traditional conjunto played just as it should be

 The place itself is almost comically picturesque, just a perfect and visually arresting spot.  It looks like time has stood still there for a half century or more. 

The outside is covered in paintings, this is my favorite wall.

There is a lot more but I'll pause for now.  We'll end with some iconic footage of father and son playing together decades ago, from Les Blank's "Chulas Fronteras"


Popular posts from this blog

Buddhas, Buddhas, y Mas Buddhas

Can octopus heads be hazardous to your health?