When my husband randomly purchased me an accordion the other week, he made certain it was of the same style that Flaco Jiménez plays (same style, but beginner price). This is because my love for the accordion began with Tejano and Norteño music. The Tejanos generally either play Hohner or Gabbanelli instruments–the Mexicans seem to prefer Gabbanellis. Flaco happens to prefer a Hohner Corona; in fact, he has a signature model created for him by the Hohner company.
What this means is that I’m learning to play a three-row diatonic. If you look closely at images of Flaco, you’ll see three rows of buttons to his right hand. These are diatonic scales G-C-F. On the left hand are twelve bass note buttons. If that isn’t confusing enough for you, the accordion plays different notes depending on whether you pull out or push in on the bellows.
In the random picture my husband took of me with my Hohner (he’s a random kind of guy–buying me accordions, taking my picture–you know the type), I’m attempting to read the tablature and translate it to the three rows under my fingers. I’ve never been instinctive with music. I’ve never been instinctive, period. Notice how set my jaw is. I have to come at everything with study. For example, in order to write poetry, I have to understand metrical and syllabic conventions. By extension, in order to create music, I must study the instrument and its form. I’m forced to conclude that I’m not much of an artist and never will be (not that I care).
However, I do have a talent for recognizing physical and sonic beauty. Diatonic accordions blend those two qualities together in stunning, yet small boxes. My new accordion makes lovely music. It isn’t the most gorgeous accordion out there–those are out of my price range–but if the bellows weren’t closed in the photograph, you would see they’re red. So it’s still snazzy and sleek, black and red and chrome.
Here’s a list of my favorite accordionistas (or the bands that have them): Ramon Ayala, Flaco Jiménez, Intocable, Los Palominos, and Los Tigres del Norte. And, of course, there are many other historically great accordion players from Texas, aside from Flaco: Valerio Longoria, Juan Lopez, Narciso Martínez, and Tony de la Rosa. I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing both Ramon and Flaco live in concert.
Ramon Ayala is, hands down, my favorite accordion player to date. His is the music de mi alma. My head is spinning, as well. What a tradition to follow. I think I’d better log out now. See you al otro lado del porton.