New Mexico music (Spanish: música nuevo mexicana)[1] is a genre of music that originated in the US state of New Mexico, it derives from the Pueblo music in the 13th century,[2] and with the folk music of Hispanos during the 16th to 19th centuries in Santa Fe de Nuevo México. The style went through several changes during pre-statehood, mostly during the developments of Mexican folk and cowboy Western music.[3]

After statehood, New Mexico music continued to grow in popularity with native New Mexicans, mostly with the Pueblo, Navajo, Apache, Neomexicanos, and the descendants of the American frontier.[4] Shortly after statehood, during the early 1900s, elements of Country music and American folk music began to become incorporated into the genre. The 1950s and 1960s brought the influences of Blues, Jazz, Rockabilly, and Rock and roll into New Mexico music; and, during the 1970s, the genre entered popular music in the state, with artists like Al Hurricane and Freddie Brown receiving airtime locally on KANW, and international recognition on the syndicated Val De La O Show.[5][2][6][7][8] Other Southwestern artists were prominently featured on the Val de la O Show, performing Regional Mexican, Tejano, Texas country, and Western music, which brought a more general audience to New Mexico music.[3]

The sound of New Mexico music is distinguished by its steady rhythm, usually provided by drums or guitar, while accompanied by instruments common in Pueblo music, Western, Norteño, Apache music, Country, Mariachi, and Navajo music. Country and western music lend their drum and/or guitar style sections, while the steadiness of the rhythm owes its origins to the music of the Apache, Navajo, and Pueblo. And the differing rates of that tempo comes from the three common Ranchera rhythm speeds, the polka at 2/4 (ranchera polkeada), the waltz at 3/4 (ranchera valseada), and/or the bolero at 4/4 (bolero ranchero).

The language of the vocals in New Mexico music is usually Mexican and New Mexican Spanish; American and New Mexican English; Spanglish; Tiwa; Hopi; Zuni; Navajo; and/or Southern Athabaskan languages.


The musical history of New Mexico goes back to pre-colonial times, but the sounds that define New Mexico music begin particularly with the ancient Anasazi. Some of their music is thought to have survived in the traditional songs of the Pueblo people with wind instruments such as the Anasazi flute, as well as the chants and drum beats of the Navajo and Apache.[9][10]

When the Spanish founded Santa Fe de Nuevo México, they brought with them liturgical music, the violin, and the Spanish guitar, and Mexico brought with it the traditions of Mariachi, and Ranchera.[11]

After New Mexico became a territory, the people of the American frontier brought the traditions of Country and Cajun music. This was when the first forms of New Mexico music began to be played. Western was an adaption of Country and Cajun, accompanied by traditionally Mexican and Native American instruments.

Once New Mexico became a state, the music was sung at parties and in homes as traditional folk music. During the 1950s and 1960s, it became a form of popular music.[12] In the 1970s, KANW began playing Spanish language New Mexico music.[13]

Songs and albums

Smithsonian Folkways has released traditional New Mexico music on the following albums: Spanish and Mexican Folk Music of New Mexico (1952),[14] Spanish Folk Songs of New Mexico (1957),[15] Music of New Mexico: Native American Traditions (1992),[16] and Music of New Mexico: Hispanic Traditions (1992).[17] These albums feature recordings of songs like "Himno del Pueblo de las Montañas de la Sangre de Cristo" (lit. "Hymn of the Pueblo of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains") as performed by Cleofis Vigil and "Pecos Polka" as performed by Gregorio Ruiz and Henry Ortiz, "It's Your Fault That You're Looking for Your Horses All Night" as performed by The Turtle Mountain Singers, "Entriega de Novios" as performed by Felix Ortega, "Welcome Home" by Sharon Burch, as well as other classic New Mexico folk songs. The albums also include takes on other New Mexico folk musics by multiple New Mexico musicians ranging from Al Hurricane, Al Hurricane, Jr., and Sharon Burch.

There have been other artists of varying genres that have released albums containing elements of New Mexico music. Country artist Michael Martin Murphey released an album titled Land of Enchantment, tracks such as "Land of the Navajo" and "Land of Enchantment" made use of various instruments typically found in New Mexico music.

John Donald Robb left a significant collection of 3,000 field recordings of Nuevomexicano and Native music, among others, to the UNM Center for Southwest Research. Songs are available to listen to online.


Awards and recognition


  1. ^ "La Música Nuevo Mexicana: Tradiciones Religiosas y Seculares de la Colección de Juan B. Rael - Hispano Music and Culture of the Northern Rio Grande: The Juan B. Rael Collection". The Library of Congress (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-03-20.
  2. ^ a b "New Mexico Public Radio Nurtures its Unique Music Beat". Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 2015-10-05. Archived from the original on 2018-03-02. Retrieved 2015-11-24.
  3. ^ a b Lucero, Mario J. "The problem with how the music streaming industry handles data". Quartz. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  4. ^ Robb, J.D.; Bratcher, J.; Ruiz-Fabrega, T.; Fletcher, M.P.; Tillotson, R. (2008). Hispanic Folk Songs of New Mexico: With Selected Songs Collected, Transcribed, and Arranged for Voice with Piano Or Guitar Accompaniment. University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 978-0-8263-4434-2. Retrieved 2015-01-18.
  5. ^ Martinez, Rozanna M. (November 24, 2020). "Honoring cultural impact: New Mexico Music Hall of Fame goes virtual with award show". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  6. ^ Federal Writers' Project, New Mexico: A Guide to the Colorful State, US History Publishers, pp. 8–, ISBN 978-1-60354-030-8
  7. ^ Mary Jane Walker (2008), Family Music and Family Bands in New Mexico Music, ProQuest, ISBN 978-0-549-63692-2
  8. ^ Arellano, Gustavo (November 8, 2017). "The 10 Best Songs of New Mexico Music, America's Forgotten Folk Genre". Latino USA. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  9. ^ Kip Lornell (29 May 2012), Exploring American Folk Music: Ethnic, Grassroots, and Regional Traditions in the United States, Univ. Press of Mississippi, pp. 245–, ISBN 978-1-61703-264-6
  10. ^ Esther Grisham; Mira Bartok; Christine Ronan (May 1996), The Navajo, Good Year Books, ISBN 978-0-673-36314-5
  11. ^ Hispano Folk Music of the Rio Grande Del Norte, UNM Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0-8263-1884-8
  12. ^ Mary Caroline Montaño (1 January 2001), Tradiciones Nuevomexicanas: Hispano Arts and Culture of New Mexico, UNM Press, ISBN 978-0-8263-2137-4
  13. ^ "New Mexico Spanish Music". KANW. November 14, 2013. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
  14. ^ "Spanish and Mexican Folk Music of New Mexico". Smithsonian Folkways. January 1, 1952. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
  15. ^ "Spanish Folk Songs of New Mexico". Smithsonian Folkways. January 1, 1957. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
  16. ^ "Music of New Mexico: Native American Traditions". Smithsonian Folkways. May 21, 1992. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
  17. ^ "Music of New Mexico: Hispanic Traditions". Smithsonian Folkways. May 21, 1992. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
  18. ^ "New Mexico Spanish Music". KANW. Retrieved 2015-01-18.
  19. ^ Aldama, A.J.; Sandoval, C.; GarcĂa, P.J. (2012). Performing the US Latina and Latino Borderlands. Indiana University Press. p. 214. ISBN 978-0-253-00295-2. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  20. ^ "Native Music Hours". KANW. Retrieved 2015-01-18.
  21. ^ "Listen to Native Music Hours online". TuneIn. 2015-01-13. Retrieved 2015-01-18.
  22. ^ "Friday's Top 15 at 5:00 Countdown". KANW. January 16, 2015. Retrieved January 18, 2015.
  23. ^ "Radio Lobo 97.7/94.7". Albuquerque. January 1, 1970. Retrieved January 18, 2015.