By Rafael Velasquez |Staff Writer|
A growing popularity of the Mexican musical genre, narcocorridos which is Spanish for “drug ballads,” has taken place within mainstream pop culture over the past decade, especially among Mexican communities in Southern California.
Modern artists such as American-born Gerardo Ortiz, El Komander, and LA based band, Los BuKnas de Culiacan, have drastically steered the sound of traditional Mexican norteño music into a more aggressive style with more explicitly violent lyrics.
Their sound changed from that of older narcocorrido artists such as the now-deceased Chalino Sanchez and Los Tucanes de Tijuana, who were considered pioneers of the genre in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
The lyrics of modern narcocorrido songs have steered from just stories of drug lords and violent events associated with them to their glorification.
Drug kingpins, such as ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, fuel their lyrical content in their songs, making them seem more as robin-hoods and superheroes instead of criminals.
Although these artists have gained fame and fortune through their music, many areas such as Juarez, Mexico face a different reality filled with bloodshed in the ongoing cartel violence.
According to the 2013 documentary “Narco Cultura,” over 3,600 people were murdered in 2010 alone in the murder capital of the world, Juarez, Mexico.
The bloodshed that continues to plague Mexico still does not stop these artists from glorifying such violence with their performances.
According to The Source, one of Ortiz’s violent music videos caused controversy where governmental petitioners believe that it is extremely explicit but that didn’t stop him from performing as he has been working hard to gain popularity over the last decade, as of March 2016.
Fashion, images, films, themes, lingo
, and other elements besides music have also been used to further glorify these drug kingpins.
Songs like El RM’s “Sangre de Maldito” (Blood of the Damned), describes the daily non-stop routine of drug cartels but with a sense of pride in their bloody work.
The rhythm associated with narcocorrido carries the same risk as the cartels’ bloodshed as many artists are hired by the very same drug lords to compose and perform about their violent adventures in their heyday as if the musicians are also working for them.
The musicians face the same consequences as their cartel members’ counterparts if they fail to work when ordered by their boss, making it as dangerous as working outside the recording studio and the concert hall.
Many musicians have been victimized by the drug violence.
Singer Chalino Sanchez was murdered back in 1992 in Sinaloa, Mexico, while American-born Tito Torbellino was also murdered in 2014.
According to the media website Borderland Beat, Ortiz was nearly victimized in a gun battle that left his driver and his representative dead back in 2011 while on their way to their hotel in Colima, Mexico.
Narcorridos have been banned in many radio stations across Mexico due to the violent nature of the songs’ lyrics.
The bans on this type of music motivated many Mexican artists to move to the U.S. to record and perform their music without governmental restrictions among Mexican communities.
The more powerful media industry in the U.S., particularly in Hollywood, also motivated these artists to seek fame and fortune more easily.
Los Angeles is a haven for narcocorrido artists due to the proximity to Hollywood.
Modern narcocorridos became more violent as the cartel violence became violent, a sign that demonstrates how art helps us deal with the harsh realities that surround us.