Texas fiddle tunes are represented by the many different cultures residing in and around the regions of fiddlers that we’ve learned from. Today, in honor of Cinco de Mayo, let’s explore the Mexican influence on Texas fiddle with a Fiddle School tune highlight!

Let’s travel to Lesson 34: Plucking where we’ll find one of my favorite polkas, the Jesse Polka, originally titled Jesusita En Chihuahua.

Jesusita En Chihuahua was composed by the renowned Mexican composer Quirino Mendoza y Cortés. He premiered it on Christmas Day in 1916 while directing the military band midway through the Mexican Revolution.

Western Swing fiddler Cliff Bruner said he grew up hearing the great polka played by farm workers throughout his childhood. It was Cliff who brought the tune into his Western Swing band. In 1938, Cliff Bruner and the Texas Wanderers recorded it as “Jesse Polka.” By then, the tune already had harmony parts, composed dance steps, and great popularity.

This five-part polka is not only a great twin fiddle tune but also a taste of the Mexican influence on Texas fiddle tunes. The parallel harmonies in moving thirds are reminiscent of mariachi harmony parts, following the melody note for note and half step for half step. The longbow harmonies played over a double time rhythm part lays the perfect pallete for the traditional dance steps. The song comes to life with eighth note polka sections, and rotates between the one-chord and the five-chord, a progression popular in both German polkas as well as Mexican polkas. I hope you enjoy this version performed by the Mariachi Los Comperos group in Norfolk, Virginia.

Want to learn this tune? Here’s a video to learn the first part so you can get a head start.

Ready to learn the whole song? If you are a member of Fiddle School, you can head right to Lesson 34. Not a member yet? Join Fiddle School today to learn the full tune, including back up tracks (with and without the harmonies), and learning videos for each part – including the harmony!