By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – Martin Solis of Melvindale was honored at the Jan 17 City Council meeting for his recent induction into the ROOTS Hall of Fame in Alice, Texas, for his contributions to Tejano music.
ROOTS — Remembering Our Own Tejano Stars — recognizes contributions to Tejano or Tex-Mex music, the folk and popular music of the Mexican-American populations of central and southern Texas.
Mayoral Administrative Assistant Cecilia Dally read a congratulatory proclamation in Spanish followed by Mayor Stacy Bazman’s proclamation in English. State Rep. Cara Clemente (D-14th District) also congratulated Solis and presented him with a state proclamation.
Solis, 88, who was born in San Antonio, Texas, said he was 6 when he started playing the guitar. He said he performs for the joy it brings him and other people.
Solis said he moved to Melvindale during the Great Depression as an adolescent with his parents and seven siblings. His father was a migrant farm worker.
Tejano or music fuses Mexican, European and U.S. music. German, Polish and Czech immigrants introduced the accordion, which was combined with the bajo sexto, a 12-stringed guitar, and an acoustic bass guitar. They play music people can dance to, including waltzes, polkas, mazurkas (a Polish folk dance) and rancheros or “rancher dances.”
For many years Solis performed with a 4-man band, El Primos, which he said means “the cousins,” with drums, bass guitar, accordion and a bajo sexto, which he said “has a really beautiful sound and blends into the accordion.” Solis plays the bajo and sings, and enjoys pleasing an audience.
“Without the people, you are nothing,” he said. “You can almost feel the vibrations of the people if they are enjoying it. I look at the people and their expressions, and I am the front man, so I got to feel all that for the group.”
His son Frank, who plays the bajo sexto and the accordion, said there are a lot of musicians on the Solis side of his family.
Frank’s wife, Anna, said she loves listening to Tejano music and dancing to it. She said it is also a way to pass on culture and family traditions to the younger generation.
“The children are excited to learn and they love the music as well,” she said.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at [email protected])