NorteñoBlog went on vacation at the worst possible time, because while I was gone, IT ALL WENT DOWN. Not with the music. Except for El Komander (¡VALE LA PENA!), very few notable albums came out in the past few weeks; we’ll catch up with albums and singles in the coming days. No, I’m talking about las personas en las noticias:
Joan Sebastian’s discography is a mile long. The singer, songwriter, and guitarist not only wrote over a thousand songs, from ranchera to synthpop, but he wrote and produced entire albums for other singers. This is how NorteñoBlog has encountered him in the past: as the man behind Vicente Fernandez’s irresistible “Estos Celos” and Graciela Beltrán’s “Robame Un Beso.” Sebastian was famously “el poeta del pueblo,” riding his horse on stage and representing for his gente, and that meant giving the people what they wanted, mixing up regional styles with pop sounds from El Norte and acting in the novela Tú y Yo. And then there’s this delightful factoid about the man born José Manuel Figueroa:
Mr. Sebastian’s Facebook page says that he changed his name to Juan Sebastian in 1977, and that he turned the “u” in “Juan” into an “o” on the advice of his sister, a numerologist.
Maybe a commenter can explain how that math works?
I’m still catching up with him, and probably will be for a long time. RIP
Also while we were gone, Banda El Recodo became the first banda to play on Spanish TV. If I’m surprised they hadn’t done so already, does that reveal my cultural chauvinism? This is just more evidence that the term “Latin music” makes absolutely no sense as a genre, because it tells us nothing useful about the music in question, what it sounds like, or who listens to it. Surely somewhere in the world, someone is lumping together Wiley and George Jones as “English music” — but that doesn’t make the idea any less nonsense.
Put on your corrido-writing pants, it’s time for an update on El Chapo!
But the music production and distribution business has changed dramatically since El Chapo’s last escape [in 2001] — meaning times have changed on the narco-corrido front, as well. Forget six months; within six hours, bands and singers had rushed songs of El Chapo’s second escape onto YouTube and FaceBook. By Sunday afternoon, bands were recording their just-written Chapo tunes in the studio, playing the songs in front of enthusiastic live audiences and releasing elaborate videos with news coverage interspersed with dramatic reenactments of the tunnel escape.
Here are Los Alegres del Barranco:
These corridos are mostly gleeful, because El Chapo is now even LARGER than larger than life, and because of the Mexican government’s uncanny resemblance to Keystone Cops.
This musical expression points bluntly to collusion and to Mexico’s failure to run a government of law and order.
As many analysts have pointed out, the escape is a major embarrassment for President Enrique Peña Nieto, who in an interview with Univision after El Chapo was captured, said that allowing another escape would be “unforgivable.”
There’s also a Frontline documentary on El Chapo, if you’re so inclined, and Cartel Land, a documentary about the autodefensas and their less defensible U.S. counterparts, the border
yahoos militias. NorteñoBlog has seen neither, but I’ll report back.