Friday, October 06, 2006

Los Narcocorridos

Politics, culture, criminality, and you can dance to it - no wonder los narcocorridos are so popular in Mexico! While the US urges the Mexican government to crack down on drug traffickers, Mexican popular culture has turned the gangters in some quarters into folk heroes.

When I blogged about NPR's story on Michoacan drug trafficking and the narcocorridos (folk songs about drug smugglers) sold by local street vendors, I didn't realize the genre had such a long and distinguished history. A 2002 book by Elijah Wald called Narcocorrido details the expansive international phenomenon:
The corrido is one of the most popular music styles in the Latino market, both in the US and points south. While the Anglo media pretends that the boom in Latin music sales is driven by salsa (a style that is wonderful, but currently not very popular in the Latino community), most US Latin sales are of Mexican music, and a large proportion of these are drug trafficking ballads, played in polka or waltz rhythms by accordion combos or full brass bands. 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.
According to Wald, the genre dates at least to the 1970s and has become infused in Mexico's national musical culture, where the biggest narcocorridistas, for example, Los Tigres del Norte, enjoy a celebrity comparable to major rock stars in the United States. Very interesting - this goes on the list next time I'm ordering from Amazon.

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