This object is an accordion, a musical instrument invented in Europe in the 1800s. It was brought to America by European immigrants and is especially popular in French-Louisiana and along the Texas/Mexico border.
In Texas, the accordion is mainly used in a genre of music developed by working class Texas-Mexican peoples at the turn of the nineteenth century. This genre is known as conjunto music. In the 1890s, Texas had strong German, Polish, and Czech influences from all the immigrants settling in the area. These cultures brought their music and instruments along with the rest of their culture, and the local Tejanos began to pick up their musical influences – particularly the polka, which used the violin and the accordion prominently.
There were many prominent Texan artists famous for their skill in playing the accordion. Men like Narciso Martinez, known as El Huracan del valle or “The Hurricane of the Valley,” Santiago Jimenez, and Valerio Longoria made the conjunto style of music popular throughout the twentieth century.
San Antonio, Texas holds an annual International Accordion Festival which has been conducted since 2001. It incorporates not only conjunto style music, but Cajun, zydeco, Czech, and German styles as well. There is also the Accordion Kings and Queens concert that takes place in Houston, Texas, hosted by the Texas Folk Life organization.
Click the video above to view Narciso Martinez playing the accordion.— By Caitlin Bernstein. Edited by Kathryn S. McCloud.