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Austin Chronicle Conjunto Aztlan record review

APRIL 20, 1998: 

Conjunto Aztlan

Several years in the making, the debut from Conjunto Aztlan recaps an era of political activism and a spiritual trek through pre-Columbian Meso-America. Pairing traditional Tex-Mex conjunto instrumentation and rhythms with "danza azteca"-informed musicianship -- Conjunto Aztlan features a veteran crew of local Latino music stalwarts led by Chicano poet/musician Jose Flores Peregrino and Tejano Conjunto Festival Director Juan Tejeda. A long way from the movimiento marches, rallies, and fundraisers that first saw the Conjunto in action, this eponymously titled CD is marked by strident songwriting and an infectious eclecticism. Spoken word excursions are wrapped rhythmically around migrant farmworker anthems. The ever-animated Tejeda (accordion, clay flutes, and vocals) demonstrates why the bajo sexto and button accordion-fired conjunto sound remains a mainstay. Tejano-steeped polkas like "Pa'l Norte (To the North)," are tossed alongside reggae-styled and enunciated "Chuco Chicano," a song from the era of Luis Valdez and Chicano theatre that has been resuscitated and rearranged along novel lines. Notable is the Peregrino-composed waltz, "Aqui No Hay Nada Profundo (There is Nothing Profound Here)." Austinites Clemencia Zapata and Daniel Mendoza -- borrowed from the salsa/merengue group Sazón -- provide the dead-ahead percussion that keeps the disc from veering into nostalgia or pamphleteering. Be prepared to move your feet.

3.0 Stars -- Abel Salas

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