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Corridos Prohibidos
May 25, 2007 11:29 AM   Subscribe

On November 25th, 2006, Valentin Elizalde was killed in the city of Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. Elizalde, a singer of a style of song known as the narcocorrido, was warned not to step foot in Tamaulipas because of a video for his song “A mis Enemigos," which showed footage of (WaPo article) the deaths of drug traffickers from the Gulf Cartel. In December of 2006, Javier Morales Gómez was killed in Huetamo, Michoacán while talking on his cell phone. Morales Gómez was the singer for Los Implacables del Norte, another group closely associated with narcocorridos. The most famous death of a narcocorrido writer/singer has to be Chalino Sanchez, killed in 1992, and spawning several imitators known as Los Chalinillos that are still prevalent 15 years after Sanchez's death. (previously) [more inside]
posted by sleepy pete (17 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Narcocorridos are the modern take on the corrido, a type of Mexican folk song that told stories of bandits and gauchos fighting with and outwitting American law enforcement and cowboys in the borderlands between Mexico and the US. The updated corrido style has replaced the bandits with drug cartels. The songs tend to use real dates, places, and people as the basis for the story (much like American folk songs) and deal with the working class. Unlike early American folk songs, the narcocorridos involve traffickers paying a corridista to write the song about them, which can cause jealousy from other traffickers (some believe that this could be what led to Chalino Sanchez’s death or anger from the person paying for the song.

Interestingly, narcocorridos have helped turn Norteño music from the Mexican version of hillbilly music into a vogue fashion statement among many Mexican and Mexican-American youth.

--Americo Paredes wrote extensively on corridos.
--Elijah Wald’s 2001 book, Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns and Guerillas, is an excellent English-language source on the subject.
--An interview with Jorge Hernández, singer for Los Tigres del Norte, one of the most famous of the bands that have written songs in the narcocorrido style.
--2004 BBC article on the proposed ban of narcocorridos in Mexico.
--Older academic piece examining violence in Mexican music.
posted by sleepy pete at 11:31 AM on May 25, 2007


Nice post. Very interesting. I have to admit that I too enjoy my share of nacrocorrido music. Kinda the mexican equivalent to gangsta rap.
posted by ozomatli at 12:18 PM on May 25, 2007


And like gangsta rap, I could care less if one of them gets killed every now and then. Live by the sword and all that.
posted by 2sheets at 12:25 PM on May 25, 2007


This is fascinating.
posted by cmonkey at 1:09 PM on May 25, 2007


Very, very cool post. A small contribution: Here is a brass band (banda norteña) version of the corrido for Valentin Elizalde, live at the graveyard.
posted by micayetoca at 1:31 PM on May 25, 2007


Really cool post. Thanks.
posted by naturesgreatestmiracle at 2:23 PM on May 25, 2007


And like gangsta rap, I could care less if one of them gets killed every now and then. Live by the sword and all that.

Do you mean sing of the sword...
posted by Rubbstone at 2:59 PM on May 25, 2007


Totally, like when Lefty shot Townes.
posted by iamck at 3:09 PM on May 25, 2007


So that washington post article has a very low res screenshot of a youtube page, but does not otherwise describe it, much less link to the damn thing. Link, assholes.
posted by blasdelf at 6:45 PM on May 25, 2007


Lefty shot Pancho, dude. Townes just took notes. I once heard tvz say that song just blew in his window.

Gregorio Cortez this ain't. With his AK47 in his hand.
posted by spitbull at 7:40 PM on May 25, 2007


Corridos. (Sadly, this appears to be an IE only site, heavy on the Flash. But it's interesting, and you can actually write your own corrido in one section and sing along with the music.)
posted by halcyon_daze at 10:39 PM on May 25, 2007


Superbly constructed, thorough and fascinating post. Thanks sleepy pete. My jaw dropped with this sentence from your second link: "Many of these ballads are in the classic Medieval style, and they are an anachronistic link between the earliest European poetic traditions and the world of crack cocaine and gangsta rap."

Medieval poetry and crack...say wha?! Mind-blowing. Talk about insane contrasts.

What an incredible surprise to learn about the history of narcocorrido. Yet it makes sense, now that I know about it. It's just so bizarre. Dang. The things one learns in this place.

Narcocorrido lyrics. YouTube video of narcocorrido music. Another, more contemporary video. The narcocorrido cyberspace drug war.

And this gangsta music includes the frikkin accordion?! The wheezy muzac of mid-century Parisian cafes? It's nuts. (Although the Deutche gangsta Führer, was in a band, Torchyr, in his teens with an accordion and Idi Amin played accordion too.) Take that you dirty rats, *cue polka*
posted by nickyskye at 11:51 PM on May 25, 2007


Thanks for this sleepy pete!

YouTube video of narcocorrido music. Another, more contemporary video

If you want to see some videos, I recommend Los Tucanes de Tijuana rather than those, the latter of which is actually a parody.

Corridos are sort of a sub-genre of Norteno music which as the name implies is Northern or Border music and which is where the accordion comes from. One theory has it that it was indeed brought in by German immigrants into Mexico who wanted to hear their polka sounds.

Mexico is such a crazy, beautiful mish-mash of things.
posted by vacapinta at 12:15 AM on May 26, 2007


Not quite, vavapinta. The corrido form was around long before the word "Norteno" was even coined as a musical form. And the corrido ballad form (generally a strophic waltz) is found in several Spanish-language poetic traditions. The same corridos can be performed in multiple generic styles.
posted by spitbull at 5:57 AM on May 26, 2007


Thanks for the extra links, everyone. There were so many interesting sites around that I had to cut out when doing this post and I'm glad that some of them are in the comments.

The interesting thing about Los Tucanes, from what I've read, is that they'll release albums of love songs cleaned up for the radio and albums of narcocorridos. According to Wald's book, the narcocorridos tend to get the biggest response out of the crowd. Their song "Los Tres Animales" seems to be about life on a farm with all of the animals and is defended as such by the lead singer/songwriter Mario Quintero, but it's use of slang terms for drugs (the parakeet--cocaine, the rooster--marijuana, and the goat--heroin) is such a great use of language. (Since my Spanish slang isn't so great, I'm taking the word of Wald on this one.)

Also interesting is that the US plays a large part in the narcocorridos (not only because of the consumption of the drugs brought up from Mexico). Cintas Acuario (warning: loud music will play when you click that), the label that released the first recordings of Chalino Sanchez, is based in Los Angeles.

blasdelf, you can type Elizalde's name or "A Mis Enemigos" into youtube's search engine and probably find the video.
posted by sleepy pete at 10:04 AM on May 26, 2007


It was pretty funny vacapinta, the huevos thing! Thanks for informing me it was a parody.

Los Tucanes de Tijuana-Los tres Animales [YouTube vid]. Since it's about heroin etc ,it seems really strange to see the happy, smiling faces of the audience and their kids as they sway to the rhythm. Guess it's like happy-sounding Grateful Dead or Eric Clapton songs about cocaine.

Now you got me studying Tejano music (Tejano=Texan of Spanish heritage) and how the hell the dang accordion came into the picture. "Tejano culture was very much tied to the Cajun culture." wow, interesting.

ah, so this is how the accordion got there: "In the 1850s Europeans from Germany, Poland and what is now the Czech republic migrated to Texas and Mexico, bringing with them their style of music and dance. They brought with them the Waltz, Polkas and other popular forms of music and dance. However it was not until the Mexican Revolution (1910-1917) that forced many of these Europeans to flee Mexico and into South Texas, that their musical influence was to have a major impact on Tejanos."

And "Central to the evolution of early Tejano music was the blend of traditional forms such as the corrido and Mariachi, and Continental European styles, such as Polka, introduced by German and Czech settlers in the late 19th century. In particular, the accordion was adopted by Tejano folk musicians at the turn of the 20th century, and it became a popular instrument for amateur musicians in Texas and Northern Mexico."

And then it morphed over the years into something that went from Mexico back to Europe (Sweden), Spain and the Basques. "Texan accordion music has also influenced Basque trikitixa players."

Amazing world.
posted by nickyskye at 1:18 PM on May 26, 2007


Some of the historical accounts of the accordion's prominence in northern Mexico and Texas are fairly speculative. There were several major accordion based traditions in the region from the mid-19th century on. There was also a significant classical/light opera scene in Monterrey which ported over many classicized folk dance forms then popular with European nationalist composers (mazurka, polka) into Mexican music.

Highly recommended: The Smithsonian Folkways recording Borderlands, which surveys a broad swath of border musical history (including a classic recording of the most famous corrido, the Ballad of Gregorio Cortez). Also, Manuel Pena's The Texas Mexican Conjunto, and anything else he's written.
posted by spitbull at 3:14 PM on May 26, 2007


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