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Just Say Tejano

A beginner’s guide to the new Tex-Mex pop

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For newcomers, especially gringos, Tejano music can be a bewildering jungle of unfamiliar faces on record companies both large and small. Here are a few starting places to hear the origins of Selena’s music and to get a taste of where her peers were — and are — taking it:

VARIOUS ARTISTS Tejano Roots (Arhoolie) True to its title: 24 archival recordings from 1946 to 1964, ranging from dance-floor stomps by bandleader Tony De La Rosa and the piercing ballads of Lydia Mendoza to a crooning Tejano blues by a young Freddy Fender. Recording quality surprisingly good. A

VARIOUS ARTISTS Tejano Polkas (K-tel) One of the best entries in the label’s recent five-volume series squeezes out instrumental polkas by legends like De La Rosa, eye-patched virtuoso Steve Jordan, and Valerio Longoria (who contributes the inevitable ”Beer Barrel Polka”). For accordion fanatics. (Meanwhile, Tejano Country, which also features Fender and De La Rosa, is a decent overview of the music’s honky-tonk ties.) A-

VARIOUS ARTISTS Tejano Super Hits (Sony Discos) Wide-ranging 1994 compilation on which modern Tejano acts dabble in line-dance country (Rick Trevino’s ”Salte de Espalda”) and even, on Eddie Gonzalez’s ”Como Te Deseo,” rock power ballads! B+

VARIOUS ARTISTS Rock & Roll Texas Style (Capitol/EMI Latin) Tejano in the rock era: La Mafia and singer Mazz, among the genre’s first ’90s superstars, spice up conjunto beats with barrelhouse boogie and synth pop. Mazz’s ”Algo Bonito” even cops a few Motown hooks. Cultural exchange at its occasional weirdest. B

VARIOUS ARTISTS The Top 5 (EMI Latin) Some of the genre’s big names — Mazz, La Mafia, singers Emilio and David Lee Garza — represented by an odd mix that ranges from straight Tejano to rock influences (La Mafia’s ”Quiero,” which shares a few chords with Van Halen’s ”Jump”). B+