Norteño, literally meaning “northern” in Spanish, is a genre of Mexican music. The accordion and the bajo sexto are norteño’s most characteristic instruments. This genre of music is extremely popular among some in both Mexico and the United States, especially among the Mexican community. Though originating from rural areas, norteño is highly popular in urban as well as rural areas.
During the late 19th century, German and Czech migrants to Northern Mexico and the U.S. Southwest brought different styles among them: la redova, la varsoviana and the polka. These European immigrants fueled the demand for a local brewing industry, and they also influenced the music scene by bringing the accordion and the polka rhythm, which were part of the popular music of their homeland. Soon, local bands adopted these elements, and a new unique style gradually resulted from a blend with Mexican ranchera styles. This new style soon became a unique norteño genre, thus named because it was primarily popular in the northern regions of Mexico.
In the late 1910s and 1920s, the corridos entered a golden age when Mexicans on both sides of the border recorded in San Antonio area hotels, revolutionizing the genre alongside Mexico’s political revolution. Traditionally, norteño bands played corridos, polkas, and rancheras.
In the 1950s, the heavy influence of Norteño on the traditional music of Mexican-Americans in southern Texas gave rise to a new form of popular music, called Tejano or “Tex-Mex”, which is often influenced by American rock and swing. Tejano music often includes English and may sound much more like American rock and country music, but is a broad genre of music incorporating many different styles, all having origin in traditional Texas Mexican music.
Norteño became even more popular in the 1990s and 2000s in the United States as the Latino-American community increased rapidly. Norteño continues to be one of the most popular types of modern Mexican music today, but it is also gaining rapid popularity in the United States. Many of the most famous Mexican bands such as Ramón Ayala y sus Bravos del Norte, Los Dueto Voces del Rancho, Grupo Móntez de Durango, and Los Rieleros del Norte are all based in the United States with American labels, and their music is usually recorded and produced within the United States. This trend follows the rapid integration of Mexican-American immigrants into the United States. As norteño music is increasingly becoming integrated into American society, norteño, banda, and duranguense are not only Mexican music but also, to some extent, music of the United States.