Intocable

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INTOCABLE

Formed: 1993, Zapata, Texas

Members: Juan Hernández, MC, percussion; René Martínez, drums; Ricardo "Ricky" Muñoz, vocals, accordion; Félix Salinas, bass; Daniel Sánchez, backing vocals, bajo sexto; Sergio Serna, percussion.

Genre: Latin

Best-selling album since 1990: Contigo (1999)

Hit songs since 1990: "Coqueta," "Y Todo Para Qué," "El Amigo Que Se Fue"


When Tejano music's popularity was peaking in the early 1990s, Intocable took a left-of-center approach by playing a new norteño/Tejano hybrid. Norteño is the regional Mexican genre from northern Mexico; its primary instruments are the accordion and bajo sexto (a twangy twelve-string guitar), and its signature rhythm is the polka. The genre began to incorporate the tropical Colombian rhythm known as cumbia. Tejano, Spanish for "from Texas," is influenced by norteño but also incorporates American traditions such as rock and jazz. The group injected a freshness into the increasingly predictable Tejano sound with norteño cumbias and polkas and took a fresh approach on songs like "Dónde Estás?" and "La Mentira." At a time when many Tejano labels were pressuring groups to get easy airplay by recording quickie covers of beloved old songs, Intocable insisted on seeking out original material, though the members themselves do little songwriting.

Intocable was formed when Muñoz and friends he had known since junior high school came together in the tiny border town of Zapata. Ricky Muñoz, René Martínez, and Sergio Serna forged the sound that used raw norteño cumbias and upbeat Tejano polkas as the foundation, and topped it with a rock sensibility and Beatles-like vocal harmonies. They also added congas, not a typical norteño instrument, to add a bit of danceable tropical flavor.

The band signed with EMI in 1993 and released their major-label debut album, Fuego Eterno, the following year. Their breakthrough album was Otro Mundo, from 1995, which contained hits "La Mentira" and "Coqueta." An ode to a flirtatious girlfriend, "Coqueta" creatively juxtaposes Mexican cumbia with twelve-bar blues. The song was written by the young Mexican composer Luis Padilla, whose success with Intocable helped make him Tejano/norteño music's most in-demand songwriter by the late 1990s. Otro Mundo was produced by Jose Luis Ayala, whose brother Ramón Ayala had also brought Tejano and norteño together in the 1960s with his group Los Relámpagos del Norte.

By 1996 Intocable had become a major player, attracting full houses and ecstatic crowds with the band's almost constant touring. In 1997 the group released Llévame Contigo. It produced two Billboard Hot Latin Tracks hits: the title cut and the ranchera "No Te Vayas." In late 1997 internal conflicts led to the departure of the bajo sexto player Johnny Lee Rosas and the bass player Albert Ramírez Jr. (who were replaced by Danny Sánchez and Silvestre Rodriguez Jr., respectively). Rosas and Ramírez went on to form Masizzo. Muñoz and Intocable lost no momentum, releasing the already complete Intocable IV (1997), which generated the hit rancheras "Eres Mi Droga" and "Vivir sin Ellas." The latter track explores infidelity from the bad boy's point of viewhe loves both his girlfriends so much that he just can't choose between them.

On January 31, 1999, the stage MC José Ángel Farias, twenty-three, and the bass player Rodriguez, twenty-six, were killed in a car crash outside Monterrey, Mexico. Despite taking time off to mourn and regroup, Intocable somehow managed to keep up its one-album-per-year pace, releasing Contigo in July. It features a tribute to Farias and Rodriguez, "El Amigo Que Se Fue."

Intocable's 2002 release, Sueños, debuted at number one on Billboard 's Top Latin Albums chart and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales exceeding 200,000 units. Padilla, known for his carnally themed lyrics, adopted a loftier tone this time for the inspirational singles "El Poder de tus Manos" and "Sueña," both of which hit number one on Billboard 's Regional Mexican Airplay chart.

Intocable has spawned a musical movement that is sometimes known as norteño romántico. Centered on Texas's Rio Grande Valley, the genre eschews corrido story-songs and drug ballads but sticks to traditional norteño instrumentation. New groups that follow Intocable's template to some extent include La Costumbre, Duelo, Iman, and Palomo.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Fuego Eterno (EMI Latin, 1994); Otro Mundo (EMI Latin, 1995); Llévame Contigo (EMI Latin, 1996); Intocable IV (EMI Latin, 1997); Intocable (EMI Latin, 1998); Contigo (EMI Latin, 1999); Es Para Tí (EMI Latin, 2000); Sueños (EMI Latin, 2002).

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Intocable

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