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Conjunto legends Johnny Degollado and JJ Barrera featured in COVID-19 PSA

The Conjunto musicians offer advice to protect yourself from COVID-19 and plan an album to pay tribute to Conjunto pioneers.

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A couple of legendary Conjunto musicians teamed with non-profit arts organization Texas Folklife for a public service announcement encouraging those at risk of COVID-19 to better understand and trust the vaccine and follow guidelines already in place to help end the rise in recent positive cases.

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Austin-based music legends Johnny Degollado (“El Montopolis Kid”) and Jean Jacques “J.J.” Barrera wrote and produced a song for the PSA, a Spanish-language message for an older, well-established Chicano audience to offer advice to protect yourself and your loved ones from the coronavirus.

Barrera tells Tejano Nation why it was important for him to be a part of the project. “Well, to get the word out that it is important to maintain your distance, wear the mask and get your COVID shot,” he said. “Unfortunately it looks like not too many people cooperated and that’s probably why we’re getting another variant.”

A recent surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant and vaccine hesitancy has led to increasing rates of hospitalizations and deaths across the country. Recent data from Johns Hopkins University shows a 66% jump from the average daily rate of COVID-19 cases since last week and 145% higher than two weeks ago.

Degollado tells Tejano Nation he wanted to encourage those a risk to get vaccinated. “I wanted to send a message about the coronavirus epidemic and we wanted everybody to get the vacuna, the shot,” he said.

The video, produced by Gabriela Kane Guardia with videography by Chris Sibley of Paplote Productions, was filmed in front of the Hillside Mural at East Austin’s historic Pan American Neighborhood Park. The visual also includes a cameo from muralist Raúl Valdez, a seasoned community activist who has dedicated most of his life to the promotion and empowerment of Latinx/Chicano culture and communities in Austin and abroad.

“Everything turned out really good and I’m real pleased about the way it came out,” said Degollado.

Degollado and Barrera, who are both vaccinated, also shared they are planning to record an album beginning in September that will pay tribute to Conjunto pioneers.

“It’s gonna be songs of Johnny’s mentors, where Johnny learned from as he remembers the songs that Camilo Cantú had written and Joe Reyna,” said Barrera.

Cantú was the major accordionist in the Central Texas area beginning in the 1930s. Known as “El Azote de Austin” (“The Scourge of Austin”) and revered as “the greatest accordion player in Central Texas in the ‘40s and ‘50s,” according to the Texas State Historical Association, but sadly, no recordings were ever made of his music.

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