Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas

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9780066210247: Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas

In the first full-length exploration of the contemporary Mexican corrido, award-winning author Elijah Wald blends a travel narrative with his search for the roots of this unusual and controversial genre -- a modern outlaw music that blends the sensibilities of medieval ballads with the edgy grit of gangsta rap. While opening up a rich musical world, this book paints a picture of modern Mexican culture as it is seen by the people in the streets: raw and romantic, old fashioned and revolutionary, violent and poetic.

Wald traveled through much of Mexico and the southwestern United States (mostly hitchhiking, with a guitar on his back) in order to find notorious corridistas. From international superstars sell millions of albums to rural singers documenting current events for their neighbors in the regions dominated by guerrilla war, Wald was able to visit these songwriters in their homes, trek up to mountain villages, explore the heartland of the Mexican drug traffic, and check out the scene in urban centers such as Los Angeles and Mexico City.

The corrido genre is famous for its hard-bitten songs of drug traffickers and gunfights, and also functions as a sort of musical newspaper, singing of government corruption, the lives of immigrants in the United States, and the battles of the Zapatista rebellion in Chiapas. Since the days of the Mexican Revolution, corridos have been the musical voice of the poor and oppressed, but also a sensational actiongenre that has spawned dozens of his movies and has been attacked by conservative politiciana and anti-drug crusaders. Through largely unknown to English speakers, corridos top the Latin charts and dominate radio playlists both in the United States and points south.

Wald illustrates the power of this music and the subculture it has created. He provides in-depth looks at the songwriters who have transformed groups like the awesomely popular Tigres del Norte into enduring superstars, as well as the younger artists who are carrying the corrido into the twentyfirst century. In searching for the poetry and social protest behind the gaudy lyrics of powerful drug lords, Wald shows how popular music can remain the voice and "newspaper" of a people, even in a modern world ripe with globalization, electronic media, and gangsters who ship cocaine in 747s.

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About the Author:

Elijah Wald es escritor y músico con veinte años de experiencia reportando sobre los orígenes musicales y sobre la música misma en diferentes regiones del mundo. Fue escritor y asesor para el proyecto de múltiples medios del Instituto Smithsonian llamado The Mississippi: River and Song (El Río Mississippi: el río y su música), y también recibió un premio por la biografía Josh White: Society Blues (Josh White, Blues de la Sociedad). Una sobrevista de su obra se puede conseguir en elijawald.com.

Elijah Wald is a writer and musician with twenty years experience covering roots and world music. He was writer and consultant on the Smithsonian multimedia project The Mississippi: River of Song, and is the author of the award-winning biography Josh White: Society Blues.

From Publishers Weekly:

Guitar in hand, journalist and musician Wald (Josh White: Society Blues) takes a yearlong journey through Mexico and the southwestern U.S. tracking down composers and performers of the narcocorrido, a modern spinoff of the 19th-century Mexican folk ballad (corrido) that combines the traditional accompaniment of accordion and 12-string guitar (bajo sexto) with markedly current lyrics. Gone are the old "song stories" celebrating heroic generals and lost battles of the Mexican revolution. Narcocorridos romanticize the drug trade the botched smugglings, fallen kingpins and dishonorable police. Wald interviews dozens of key players, from Angel Gonzalez, whose 1972 "Contrabando y Traiciin" ("Smuggling and Betrayal") is credited with launching the narco-trend, to the Rivera family, whose popular Los Angeles record label releases "songs that are notable for their lack of social consciousness, their willingness to push the limits of acceptability and baldly cash in on the most violent and nasty aspects of the drug trade." The style has become hugely popular in L.A. and northwestern Mexico and has spawned a narcoculture marked by cowboy hats, sports suits and gold chains. Unfortunately, Wald's narrow, first-person account reads like a travel journal, blithely moving from subject to subject, ignoring historical context. He glosses over the U.S. and Mexican governments' antidrug military campaigns, which disrupted the lives of many innocent civilians. Wald may think the history of U.S.-Mexican drug trafficking has been sufficiently recounted elsewhere, but explaining the narcocorrido without this background is like writing a history of the American protest song without discussing Vietnam. B&w photos not seen by PW.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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