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Norteño or Norteña (Spanish pronunciation: [noɾˈteɲo], northern), also música norteña, is a genre of Mexican music from Northern Mexico, hence the name. The music is most often based on a polka or waltz tempo and its lyrics often deal with socially relevant topics. The accordion and the bajo sexto are traditional norteño's most characteristic instruments. Norteña music developed in the late 19th century, as a mixture between German folk music (which was introduced to Mexico with the arrival of German migrant workers in those years), and local Northern Mexican music.

Ramon Ayala, a norteño musician known as the "King of the Accordion", has recorded over 113 albums and is one of the best-selling norteño artists.
Los Tigres Del Norte performing at a Californian casino in 2006; with over 32 million records sold and 7 Grammy awards, they are arguably the most popular Norteño group worldwide.

The genre is popular in both Mexico and the United States, especially among the Mexican and Mexican-American community, and it has become popular in many Latin American countries as far as Chile and Colombia and in Spain. Though originating from rural areas, norteño is popular in both urban and rural areas.

Some popular norteño artists include Ramón Ayala, Cornelio Reyna, Intocable, Los Invasores de Nuevo León, Los Cadetes de Linares, Los Alegres de Terán, Los Tigres del Norte, Los Huracanes del Norte, Los Rieleros del Norte, La Leyenda, and Los Tucanes de Tijuana. Local radio stations have continued to be a major influence in popularizing norteño in the Mexican-American community.

A conjunto norteño is a type of Mexican folk ensemble. It mostly includes diatonic accordion, bajo sexto, electric bass or double bass, and drums, and sometimes saxophone.



The norteño repertoire covers canción ranchera, corrido, balada, bolero, charanga, chotis, cumbia, huapango norteño, polka, redowa and waltz. [1]



  • Ranchera polka (2
    ) – "Carta Abierta"
  • Ranchera vals (3
    ) – "Tragos amargos"
  • Corrido polka (2
    ) – "Contrabando y traición"
  • Corrido vals (3
    ) – "Gerardo González"
  • Corrido mazurka (6
    ) – "Catalino y los rurales"
  • Bolero (4
    ) - "Mi tesoro"


  • Huapango norteño (6
    ) – "El texanito", "El Mezquitón"
  • Polka (2
    ) – "El Circo"
  • Chotis (4
    ) – "El Cerro de la Silla"
  • Redova (3
    ) – "De China a Bravo"



Dress to dance polka and redova from Nuevo León, displayed at the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City

Emperor Maximilian I was the first[dubious ] to bring the music of Middle Europe to México. By 1864 he had accumulated marching bands and musicians to entertain him. When Maximilian's empire was defeated, many of his former army and fellow countrymen fled north and dispersed into what is now the southwestern United States. Norteño music developed from a blending of Mexican and Spanish oral and musical traditions, military brass band instrumentation, and Germanic musical styles such as polka and waltz.

European immigrants from Germany, Poland, & Czech Republic to northern Mexico and the southwestern United States also brought dance traditions such as the varsovienne. The focus on the accordion in the music of their home countries was integrated into Mexican music, and the instrument is essential in the genre today. It was called norteño because it was most popular in the northern regions of Mexico.

The late 1910s and 1920s were the golden age of the corrido, a form of ballad. Mexicans on both sides of the border came to San Antonio, Texas, to record in hotels. Their songs memorialize the Mexican political revolution of the time. Los Alegres de Terán was among the first norteño bands. Later in the century the genre became more commercial with the works of Los Relámpagos del Norte and other groups. More recent bands such as Intocable integrate elements of rock music and other popular styles.

Comparison to TejanoEdit

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". It was influenced by American rock and roll and swing. Tejano music often includes English lyrics and may sound much more like American rock and country music, but is a broad genre incorporating many different styles.

Because Tejano music is derived from norteño, the two are often confused. Tejano is more influenced by American music styles such as country and jazz, while norteño is less Americanized with a rural, traditional sound.

Related genresEdit


While the saxophone has historically been an optional instrument in traditional norteño music, there have been a number of artists who have used it consistently. Early bands include Los Rancheritos del Topo Chico, Los Gorriones del Topo Chico and Los Montañeses del Álamo in the 1950s and 60s. Later artists to emerge from the 1970s to 90s include Lorenzo de Monteclaro, Los Rieleros del Norte, Conjunto Primavera, Los Norteños de Ojinaga, Los Jilgueros del Arroyo, Polo Urías y su Máquina Norteña, Conjunto Agua Azul, Conjunto Azabache, Pepe Tovar y sus Chacales, Conjunto Río Grande and Los Pescadores del Río Conchos. More recent bands to emerge in the 2000s and 2010s include La Maquinaria Norteña, La Energía Norteña, La Reunión Norteña, La Alianza Norteña, La Fiera de Ojinaga, Geru y su Legión 7, Conjunto Nube, La Zenda Norteña, Grupo Legítimo, Conjunto Peña Blanca, Los Capitanes de Ojinaga and Los Retoños del Río. The popularity of Norteño acts who incorporate the saxophone into their instrumental line-up has become so big in recent years, that it has essentially become its own sub genre. Some bands have Grupero influence and utilize an electronic keyboard for their ballads and romantic cumbias.

Less Common Norteño VariationsEdit

There are some bands that utilize standard norteño instrumentation, but where the main instrument is not an accordion or saxophone, such as Los Líricos de Terán who use a fiddle, and Raza Obrera who use a harp.


Starting in the late 2000s, a number of Norteño bands, especially in Sinaloa, consistently included a sousaphone to play the bass notes in their music instead of an electric bass or tololoche, thus creating the fusion sub genre of Norteño-Banda, also known as Bandeño. It is essentially a hybrid of traditional Norteño and Banda. This style includes the likes of artists such as Fidel Rueda, Calibre 50, Voz de Mando, Revólver Cannabis, Roberto Junior y su Bandeño, Colmillo Norteño, Código FN, Los Gfez, Proyecto X, Alto Mando, Norteño 4.5 and Impacto Sinaloense.


A Regional Mexican sub genre different from Norteño is Sierreño. It was created and popularized in the 1980s and its popularity spread throughout Mexico. Its name comes from the fact that the instrumental line-up is easy to transport up the mountain range (la sierra). There are essentially two styles of Sierreño: One from Northwestern Mexico where the main instrument is the acoustic twelve-string guitar, and one from Southwestern Mexico where the main instrument is the acoustic six-string guitar.

Northwestern Sierreño includes a acoustic twelve-string guitar which is used for the melody of the music, followed by an acoustic six-string guitar for the harmony and an acoustic or electric bass for the low notes. A different variation is that an accordion or saxophone is used for the melody, while the twelve-string or six-string guitar is used for the harmony. The bass can be substituted with a tololoche. This style includes artists such as Miguel y Miguel, Los Alteños de la Sierra, Los Alameños de la Sierra, Los Nietos de Sinaloa, Los Ciclones del Arroyo, Los Alegres de la Sierra, Los Diamantes de Sinaloa, Los Hijos de Barrón, Los Dareyes de la Sierra, Ramón Padilla y Los Reyes de Sinaloa, Los Valle, Contraste Sierreño, Tercer Elemento, Los Traviezoz de la Zierra and Los Cuates de Sinaloa.

Southwestern Sierreño includes an acoustic guitar for the melody, followed by one or two acoustic or classical guitars for the harmony, and an acoustic or electric bass for the low notes. Artists in this style include ones such as Dueto Bertín y Lalo, Impacto Sierreño, Los Armadillos de la Sierra, Sentimiento Sierreño, Los Benítez de la Sierra, Código de la Sierra, Tranquilidad Sierreña and Dueto Dos Rosas. Southwest Sierreño bands were particularly influenced by the three guitar combination from their northwestern counterparts.

A variation of both styles of Sierreño is when there is a band with only two members, a duo, in which one member plays the twelve-string or six-string guitar for the melody, while the other plays secondary guitar for the harmony.

Unlike Norteño, Sierreño typically does not include drums.


Beginning in the early 2010s, a number of Sierreño bands from Sinaloa incorporated a sousaphone to play the low notes to their songs instead of an electric bass or tololoche, this creating the hybrid style of Sierreño-Banda: a combination of Sierreño with Banda. Its popularity spread to other states as well. Artists in this category include El Tigrillo Palma, Jesús Ojeda y sus Parientes, Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho, Alta Consigna, Virlán García, Ulices Chaidez y Sus Plebes, Crecer Germán, Los Perdidos de Sinaloa, among others.



Modern norteño has also diverged significantly from more original "oldie" norteño of pre-1950s artists such as Narciso Martínez. Since the 1970s and 1980s, electric bass guitars and a modern drum set have been added. The traditional bajo sexto-accordion style of Los Alegres de Terán and Antonio Aguilar transformed into the modern style typical to that of Los Tigres del Norte, Intocable, Duelo and Los Tucanes de Tijuana. Current songs may feature percussions, saxophone, or an electronic keyboard. In 2014 Los Tigres del Norte released the album Realidades, which contains the song “Era Diferente” (meaning “She Was Different”) about a lesbian teenager who falls in love with her best friend; according to lead singer and songwriter Jorge Hernández, this is the first time a norteño group has ever written a gay love song.[2][3]

Genres similar to norteño include banda and duranguense. These bands employ mostly brass instruments instead of accordions and guitars, but may perform the same types of songs. Because many of these band names contain Mexican state names or a general geographical description, such as “del Norte” or "de la Sierra", norteño, banda, duranguense, and other similar genres are classified into the umbrella term known as Regional Mexican music.

Regional stylesEdit

A norteño ensemble in Baja California, Mexico, consisting of an accordion, a tololoche and a snare drum ("tarola").

Norteño has many different regional styles. Norteño in Texas, for example, is likely to be influenced by American music, while artists from Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas may have influences from the Caribbean. Since the 1990s, norteño music from California has concentrated on the rough Sinaloa-style norteño influenced by Chalino Sánchez. Jalisco and Sinaloa have also produced norteña bands, even though the two states are more closely associated with the musical styles of mariachi and banda, respectively. Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, and San Luis Potosí norteño often combines the saxophone and the accordion (Norteño-Sax). Each norteño band also has its own unique adorno, a musical interlude between lyrics. For example, the adorno of Los Rieleros del Norte is typically a descending scale.

List of notable artistsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (1988). Atlas cultural de México: Música. Mexico D. F.: Secretaría de Educación Pública, Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia : Grupo Editorial Planeta. ISBN 978-968-406-121-7.[page needed]
  2. ^ "Realidades - Los Tigres del Norte | Releases". AllMusic. 2014-10-07. Retrieved 2015-03-25.
  3. ^ Yezmin Villarreal (2015-03-21). "Los Tigres del Norte Are Making Gay Norteño History". Retrieved 2015-03-25.