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City Life Snapshot: Music In Austin, Texas


A different take on city as melting pot now, in this City Life Snapshot from Austin, Texas.

BALDOMERO FRANK ALVAREZ CUELLAR: I'm Baldomero Frank Alvarez Cuellar, and that's a mouthful. And I am one-half of the owners of Rancho Alegre Radio.

BLOCK: Back in the '70s and '80s, Conjunto music was everywhere in Austin, and Alvarez is trying to bring it back.

CUELLAR: We brought in bands that people hadn't seen here in years. One of them was Rene Joslin, who had to retire due to illness. He hadn't played in like 14 or 15 years.


CUELLAR: We were expecting a little rust and the man blew everybody away.


CUELLAR: With the Conjunto, you'll have the bass, the drums, the accordion. You'll have the vocals and the backup vocals, that's it.

RENE JOSLIN: (Singing in foreign language)

CUELLAR: Conjunto music comes from European, German influences, especially after World War II. And, you know, it's influenced by everything Spanish, Mariachi, and everything accordion which is far as Polish to Czech to German influences, polkas, and it all meshed. Because I know nowadays people think of migrant workers as being Mexican but back in the day, you know, from the stories that my father would tell me, if you were a foreigner you were a migrant worker.


CUELLAR: My family came from migrant workers. We picked everything from oranges, cherries, cucumbers. Back in the day, Conjuntos were the only ones who were coming to the fields to play. And dances were - we moved furniture out from a house for one night, and everyone did it.

JOSLIN: (Singing in foreign language)

CUELLAR: I'm not sure who coined it first, Conjunto, but it was the nightly gathering to mellow out - maybe have a beer or a drink of whisky or something and forget the woes from the next day's job. This will get you ready for the next week, no matter how hard you've had it.


Thanks to Delaney Hall at KUT in Austin for that City Life Snapshot. Delaney is part of Localore, that's a national initiative from the Association of Independence in Radio. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Delaney Hall