Simply put, Eva Ybarra is a masterful and criminally overlooked accordion player, composing many pieces while others are content to regurgitate standards. She can play a myriad of styles that fall under the umbrella of American folk music (all of the Americas, Yanqui!). Most importantly, she has her own style and voice, something that only the most superb of musicians can claim. Yet, in her hometown, playing the music of her—our—people, she is wont for a place to perform. So go see her Saturday at the Accordion Festival, even if just to say you once saw Eva Ybarra, La Reina del Acordeón!
How would you describe your style of accordion playing?
Well, I don’t wanna copy nobody. I learned by listening to the radio and watching my older brother. Then, when I got a little older, I would hear 45s and learn it by ear, and I played close to exactly what I heard. And then I said, ‘I’m not gonna copy those accordionists and musicians. I’m gonna get my style.’ Many people like it but some musicians say, ‘I don’t like her style,’ because it’s more modern. It’s … progressive. I use a lot of inversions and scales. Pentatonic scales. Major 9th chords. You know, mix it up. I can play traditional, too. I go to dances and can play traditional for people to dance, but I prefer concerts where I can play progressive music.
How have you liked living and playing in San Antonio?
Well, this is my hometown and this is where I’m gonna die. I wouldn’t change my hometown for nothing, nada, not another beautiful town. But I like to travel. I like to perform out of town. I recorded an album for Rounder Records called A Mi San Antonio, and I love my San Antonio. I love my people, the audience; they treat me right.
Being somewhat of an unsung hero, is it hard to continue when you have this undeniable talent but it’s hard to even find a venue to host you?
I love my audience, I love them. Until the day I die, they will be in my heart. I wish I could bring them with me to my house. So I keep them in my heart. But the people that put me down, say, ‘She is not La Reina,’ it makes me stronger, so I practice more and more. I’m gonna get stronger and it will make me better, practice more and more and better myself. You know, you put me down, make me cry, I’m gonna show you. I’m gonna get better because I’m mad. I don’t like discrimination. I don’t like racists, nothing. I don’t like the people that compare me to somebody else. I don’t like to be compared … I don’t know if I’m La Reina or not, but I’m Eva.