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Norteño or Norteña (Spanish pronunciation: [noɾˈteɲo], northern), also música norteña, is a genre of Regional 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.

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 rural and urban areas.

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


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 band worldwide.

The norteño repertoire covers canción ranchera, corrido, ballad, bolero, charanga, chotís, cumbia, huapango norteño, mazurka, 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
    ) – "Catarino 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 and Los Donneños were 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.

Similar genresEdit


Starting in the early 2000s, some Norteño bands in Sinaloa consistently included a sousaphone to play the bass notes in their music instead of an electric bass or tololoche. The style later became aptly known as Norteño-Banda, or Bandeño. Its popularity grew quite large by the latter years of the decade. It is essentially a hybrid of Norteño and Brass Banda. This style includes the likes of acts such as 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.


While the saxophone has historically been an optional instrument in traditional norteño music, there have been a number of bands who have emphasized it as their main instrument. Early bands include Los Rancheritos del Topo Chico, Los Gorriones del Topo Chico and Los Montañeses del Álamo in the 1950s and 1960s. Later artists to emerge from the 1970s to 1990s include Lorenzo de Monteclaro, Los Rieleros del Norte, Conjunto Primavera, Los Norteños de Ojinaga, Los Jilgueros del Arroyo, Beto Quintanilla, Polo Urías y su Máquina Norteña, Conjunto Agua Azul, Conjunto Azabache, Pepe Tovar y Los Chacales, Conjunto Río Grande and Los Pescadores del Río Conchos. More recent bands to emerge in the 2000s and 2010s include Adolfo Urías y su Lobo Norteño, 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 Creadorez, Los Capitanes de Ojinaga and Los Retoños del Río. The term “Norteño-Sax” is largely a phenomenon of the internet age. Users on YouTube were uploading mixes of songs with said title as early as 2011. This was done for a practical reason: to differentiate the style from traditional accordion-led Norteño and the then-novelty Norteño-Banda style. Some Norteño-Sax bands have Grupero influence and utilize an electronic keyboard for their ballads and romantic cumbias.

Other Norteño VariationsEdit

There are some bands that utilize traditional norteño instrumentation, but where there is a different main instrument, such as Los Líricos de Terán who use a fiddle, and Raza Obrera who use a harp.


A different Regional Mexican subgenre sometimes confused with Norteño is Sierreño. It was developed in the late 1970s and its popularity spread over time throughout Mexico. Its name comes from the fact that the instrumental line-up is easy to transport up the mountain range (la sierra), where it originated. Its original name was “Campirano”, which translates to “Country/Rural”, but that is a redundant title since all of Regional Mexican music is rural in origin, and the primary song style performed in the genre is the Canción Ranchera (ranch song), as in “country/rural”.

The first Sierreño act to achieve a level of mainstream success was the brother duet Bertín y Lalo from Guerrero in the early 1980s. The instrumental line-up consisted of their vocals and a requinto guitar, followed by a classical guitar. They added an electric bass player many years later. Bertín y Lalo inspired the start of a number of sierreño duos in Sinaloa around the same time, starting with Los Dos de la Sierra and Miguel y Miguel. The latter of which replaced the requinto with an acoustic twelve-string guitar and the classical guitar with an acoustic six-string guitar.

A number of sierreño bands emerged in the 1990s and followed Miguel y Miguel’s instrumental formula, such as Los Cuates de Sinaloa and Los Diamantes de Sinaloa. However, some bands replaced the twelve-string guitar with an accordion, such as Los Llaneros de Guamuchil, Los Ciclones del Arroyo, and Los Alegres de la Sierra. In the 2000s, bands such as Los Valle from Chihuahua chose a saxophone as the lead instrument instead of a guitar or accordion. However, the three guitar combination (twelve-string guitar, six-string guitar and bass) remains the most popular variation among sierreño bands from Northwestern Mexico. Some even replace the electric bass with an acoustic one or a tololoche.

Since the 1990s, a number of sierreño bands from Guerrero and Southwestern Mexico in general such as Los Armadillos de la Sierra, Impacto Sierreño, and Dueto Dos Rosas have made their style sound closer to Bertín y Lalo’s original style with requinto guitars, classical guitars, and electric basses.

Unlike Norteño, Sierreño traditionally does not include drums.


Starting in the 1990s, a number of Sierreño bands and solo artists from Sinaloa incorporated a sousaphone to play the low notes to their songs instead of an electric bass or tololoche, with El Canelo y Los Dos del Sitio being the first to do so. This created the hybrid style of Sierreño-Banda: a combination of Sierreño with Brass Banda. Its popularity spread to other states over time. Subsequent artists in this category include El Tigrillo Palma, Jesús Ojeda y sus Parientes, Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho, Virlán García, 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 band 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. Artists from Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, for example, may have influences from the Caribbean. Since the 1990s, norteño music from Baja California has concentrated on the rough Sinaloa-style norteño influenced by Chalino Sánchez. Even though it originated in Nuevo León, Norteño-Sax is more prominent in the states of Chihuahua, Durango, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes and San Luis Potosí. While the primary style of song performed in Norteño is the Ranchera, bands from Culiacán focus heavily on corridos. Each 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.

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.