Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

CONJUNTO

Spanish for 'combo' or 'band', synonymous with 'sonora' in Puerto Rico and Cuba for medium-sized band. Cuban conjuntos stem from carnival street bands; the format of two or three trumpets, tres (six- or nine-string guitar), piano, bass, bongo, conga, cowbell and voices derived from configuration developed by Arsenio Rodriguez in '40, is now one of the basic units playing salsa variously augmented with trombones (often a mix of trumpets and trombones or replacing trumpets by just 'bones: regarded as the symbol of urban NYC salsa) and less commonly saxes, up to five or six brass, timbales, hand-held percussion incl. maracas (pair of shaken rattles) and g]auu[iro (notched gourd scraped with a stick); contemporary bands favouring the purer Arsenio model incl. Conjunto Clsico and Conjunto Imagen (founded '90 in Brooklyn).

The Puerto Rican conjunto was a rural band format: guitar, cuatro (small ten-stringed guitar-like instrument), g]auu[ayo (a scraped hollow gourd); trumpets and clarinets became optional; some rural conjuntos are led by accordions. Mexican groups are accordion-led, with guitar, bass, bongos, more percussion; originally instrumental Mexican and Chicano conjuntos are now used to support popular political songs (corridos, rancheras) with a bouncy beat to sweeten the message. Accordion-led bands in Texas are often called conjunto bands; immigrant Germans working on railways are credited with bringing the accordion to the area (and Bohemians with giving the squeeze-box to Cajun music); the south-central Texas ethnic mix has a strong German/Slavic/Bohemian element: the bands play polkas and waltzes as well as country. Freddy Fender hit 'Wasted Days and Wasted Nights' is an example of country conjunto. The Mexican Revolution on Arhoolie is a four-CD set of tracks recorded 1904--74 on that subject, using corrido and ballad styles. The Texas-American Conjunto: History Of A Working-class Music by Manuel Pea '86 published by U of Texas; see also Tex-Mex.