Tejano is a popular music style also known as Tex-Mex music. It is a blend of Mexican, European, and American music styles that have greatly influenced worldwide music lovers.
Tejano and Conjunto music originated in Southern Texas in the mid-20th century and used to be dominated by men, and women were just backup singers. In the 1930s, the industry started to let women take the lead. Some of the famous female Tejano singers during this time were: Lydia Mendoza, Carmen y Laura, Eva Garza, and Chelo Silva. Many of these women became famous within the U.S and in other countries such as Mexico, Cuba, Columbia, and South America, performing with around 20,000 fans.
However, women usually quit singing once they are married to raise a family. Only Lydia Mendoza, Carmen y Laura, Eva Garza, and Chelo Silva did not follow the rule and continued performing on stage even after marrying and having children.
In the 1970s and 80s, women like Laura Canales, Elsa Garcia, Lisa Lopez, and many more females took the stage. They created the path that would lead to what many call the GOLDEN AGE of Tejano (1990-the 2000s). The Golden Age of Tejano was when famous female Tejano singers like Elida Reyna, Jennifer Peña, Selena Quintanilla-Perez, Shelly Lares, Stefani Montiel, Stephanie Lynn, many more made their mark on the ever-expanding and flourishing market that we have today.
The following musicians have had a significant influence on the Hispanic population of Texas and even those who don’t identify with Spanish origin.
Selena Quintanilla Perez must be the most famous Tejano artist who ever lived. Dubbed the “Queen of Tejano,” Selena dominated the Tejano music charts from the early ’80s and ’90s. By blending pop music with Tejano music, Selena helped the industry get national attention being the first female Tejano singer to win a Grammy. Her music helped the Tejano industry rise to the national level and gain popularity throughout the U.S. and Latin America. Even after her passing in 1995, she remains popular as her legacy lives on through her music, fashion, and fans.
Selena holds the most number of the Tejano Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year, winning 11 out of 12 nominations. This award is an honor presented to female Tejano music recording artists, established by a Tejano singer Rick Trevino in 1981, to recognize the most talented performers of the genre. The Tejano Musica Awards are presented by the Texas Talent Musicians Association (TTMA) to “promote excellence in the Tejano music industry.” The award-giving body selects a winner of the female vocalist of the year using the popular vote method.
In October 1981, Lisa Lopez was the first female Tejano singer to appear on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart. She was also the first Tejano singer to receive the Tejano Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year (1982), Female Entertainer of the Year, and Song of the Year award.
Her Mexican audience’s support was so strong that she made it to U.S. Billboard Regional Mexican Airplay number one with her single, “Si Quieres Verme Llorar” (1982).
In the early 90s, Lopez signed a contract with Sony Discos; however, her music failed to make it to the music charts.
In 1973, Laura Canales made her recording debut with the Los Unicos. She did her recording while performing with the famous Texas conjunto and norteño group called Conjunto Bernal. Before the Tejano Golden age, Canales was considered Tejano music’s first leading lady. She won the best female entertainer and female vocalist awards at the Tejano Music Award for five non-consecutive times.
Shelly Lares holds the record of most nominations in the Tejano Music Award for Female Vocalist, for being nominated 28 times. It was not until the 16th Tejano Music Awards in 1998 that Lares won the award since she received her first nomination in 1986. She won over newcomer Jennifer Peña, named “the next Selena,” and Elida Reyna, who received her first nomination in 1996.
Jennifer Peña is an American Tejano pop singer and actress who has sold over 3.5 million records internationally. Before retiring from the music industry, she won Female Entertainer of The Year (1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2003). Peña received four nominations for Billboard Latin Music Awards in 2003, including; Hot Latin Track of The Year, Pop Airplay Track of The Year, Regional Airplay Track of The Year for her song, El Dolor De Tu Presencia, and received the award for Album of The Year ( Libre).
Elida Reyna formed her band Elida Reyna Y Avante, also known as Elida Y Avante or EYA in 1992. In 1995, the band received the “Billboard” Magazines “Revelacion Del Año” award and won the “Rising Group of the Year” award at the TTMA Industry Awards. In 1996, Reyna won the Tejano Music Award for “Rising Female Star,” In 1999, Tejano Music Awards also named Elida Y Avante “Most Promising Band of the Year.”
In 2000, her song “Duele” earned Reyna various awards at the Tejano Music Awards, such as the year’s Female Vocalist, Female Entertainer, and “Song of the Year.” Reyna also dominated the award from 2007 until 2015 and held the record for most consecutive wins (10).
More than 25 years after the golden age of Tejano, many new female artists today still look up to Selena as they make their mark in the industry. According to Veronique Medrano, a Tejano history archivist and a musician, Tejano music is unique because it allows the artists, especially young women, to have their own identities, vision, and purpose.