You Can Still Listen Even If You Don’t Understand Spanish

Hello again music fans!

Something that has been rolling around in my noggin for a while is how to spread the gospel of Tejano and Conjunto to my fellow music lovers who don’t speak Spanish. I figured I would start with this sentiment…”Don’t let the Spanish scare you.”

Think about the first songs you heard and the first songs you loved. What brought you to them first? The lyrics? Probably not, unless you were raised strictly on Bob Dylan. More than likely it was the melody, the beat, and the overall sound. It’s the same reason why dance music is so popular. People aren’t drawn to club music for the deep lyrics, and they rarely complain when they can’t understand them.

So why not listen to Tejano or Conjunto the same way? Separate out the language at first. It will come to you eventually, particularly if you live in Texas. Focus on the music. The thing is, it’s dance music for the most part. Conjunto especially. Just try to remain motionless during a hot cumbia.

Many friends of mine who consider themselves music aficionados define their musical tastes as “a little bit of everything.” They’ve got what they would call “world music,” some bossa nova, maybe a little Hugh Masekela, the obligatory Bob Marley Legend album, some Putumayo samplers, etc. But do they know anything about Tejano or Conjunto? No. And it’s right here in their own backyard. They’ll play something from Botswana before they’ll play something from the Valley. Even public radio, which is where I came from and believe in wholeheartedly, the bastion of musical diversity that it is, doesn’t play it enough. Some do, but most don’t. They play “latin,” but it’s not the same, as we all know.

The point is, people with a diverse musical palate already listen to music in other languages they don’t understand. And they even brag about it. And, in my opinion, some of it is really, really hard to listen to. Or at the very least, it’s not as easy as Tejano and Conjunto. If you don’t like it, that’s one thing, but don’t let the language be a barrier for you.

Once the music wins you over, you will begin to get more comfortable with the language, and you will recognize familiar words…corazon (heart)…llorar (crying)…alma (soul)…mujeres (women)…amor (love)…vida (life)… and you will discover that they are the same things we sing about in English.

The best thing you can do, though, is go to a dance. It can just be a DJ, it doesn’t have to be a live show. Hang out for a few songs, watch how everyone dances and sings, notice how the music is almost like a family member to them. Then you will see the depth and importance this true American music has in many people’s lives, and you will understand its greatness, without even speaking a word of Spanish. The cool thing is, that you can see this in context, nearly every day in Texas, and definitely every weekend. You really have to do some digging to find an experience like this for other non-English music, to really see how important the music is to its people. 

And then…dance your ass off if you are so inclined. When you’re ready, begin listening to the words. That, my friends, is a whole different blog post, and a whole ‘nother project altogether. You’ll be amazed by the poetry, the eloquence, and the story telling.

Til next time,


Spread the Word about Rancho Alegre