In a good, brief interview with Public Radio International — listen to it here — narcocorrido scholar Elijah Wald supports the notion that nobody else really sounded like the late singer-guitarist Ariel Camacho, who died in a car accident last Thursday. “[Camacho’s music is] not norteño — norteño is the accordion sound,” Wald corrects the interviewer. Rather, Wald says, Camacho was bringing together two distinct Sinaloan sounds: the “classic, old-fashioned sound everywhere of just guitars and singers,” and “the classic Sinaloan sound” of brass bands. He locates Camacho’s sound in the 15-year-old El Canelo de Sinaloa y Los Dos del Sitio, also two guitars and a tuba. (This Canelo song is faster than Camacho’s stuff and the vocal harmonies aren’t as pronounced, but you can hear the lineage.) Wald also says that Camacho likely didn’t do corridos on commission, since his were about the real big shots — “like Hollywood movies” — and he confirms that Camacho’s death had nothing to do with cartel violence: “As with most touring musicians, the most dangerous thing is the touring itself.”
This interview is a refreshing contrast to the misinformation in most of the other bewildered obits, some of which think Camacho played with a bass and an accordion, revealing that their authors didn’t take five minutes to watch the Camacho videos they posted. To be fair, I hadn’t watched the video for Camacho’s love song “Hablemos” until now. It’s pretty and 100% accordion-free.