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Los Alegres del Barranco

Culiacán Characters

chanito-gilberto

Gilberton, Chanito, El Pirata — they’ve all found a following on social media. Corrido artists frequently appear with them on video, and some have inspired songs and corridos. They aren’t narcos or even musicians, but they are characters.

In the infamous City of Culiacán, where narcos, musicians and beautiful women usually attract the most attention online, people like Gilberton, an elderly gay man known as a cranky foul-mouthed neighborhood fixture ready give his opinion on various subjects laced with a large amount of curse words, has even inspired a cumbia by Los Alegres del Barranco.

Two youngsters named Chanito and El Pirata have also found online fame. Continue reading “Culiacán Characters”

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Ask a Norteño Fan: Manuel Martinez-Luna

manuel martinez-luna

Today we extend a warm NorteñoBlog welcome to Manuel Martinez-Luna. Manuel is a 31-year-old New York native, having cut a swath from Yonkers to Queens. You know him as the blog’s top commenter, which has led to an exciting new job (tambora roll…) writing for NorteñoBlog! (First article coming soon.) (No, there’s no money in it.) In his spare time, Manuel works as a compilations coordinator for The Orchard, a digital distribution arm of Sony Music, creating Regional Mexican compilations under the brand name Club Corridos. (Nice logo.) In alphabetical order, his favorites artists are Los Alegres del Barranco, the Beatles, Vicente Fernández, Ratt, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

We recently talked by phone for almost an hour about growing up in Yonkers, how Manuel came to love norteño music, how Hispanic and white people view narcocorridos, and his karaoke triumphs and fails. Here’s the edited transcript:

NorteñoBlog: What was the first popular music you ever remember loving? How did you hear it? What did you love about it?

Manuel Martinez-Luna: I would say it was hip hop. I got more aware of the artists and particular songs in middle school. Jay-Z and, when I used to live in Yonkers, the Lox — I still listen to them. For the most part it was the beats, the instruments they used, but also the lyrics — some songs might have been a little bit more street-oriented or violent, but a lot of the the things they said I could definitely relate to. The struggle, growing up in the inner city, was not that uncommon from the type of life I had — and not just me, but a lot of people can relate to not having enough money to get school clothes for the new year, or whatever it may be. Your plumbing doesn’t work during the winter, so you have to heat up your bath water in a big pot and then pour it over yourself to take a shower. Like the landlord, sometimes you ask him, “Come by and fix my damn pipes!” You know, they take a while, and you can’t show up to school smelly.

NB: What kind of music did your parents listen to? Did you find yourself liking what they liked, rebelling against their taste, or what?

MML: All Mexican music, primarily rancheros — you know, Vicente Fernandez, Antonio Aguilar — stuff like that. My dad would listen to corridos, but mostly more old school stuff — Los Alegres de Terán, Los Huracanes del Norte, like those guys? My mom would listen to very obscure female groups, I can’t remember their name right now. I think their name was Las Jilgueras something… [NB note: Las Jilguerillas?]

Honestly, when I was younger, I just didn’t get it — I thought it was kind of hokey and too old school or whatever. I would hear it in the background all the time, Saturday mornings my mom and dad would put on their music and we would go about our business, but at that time I just didn’t get it. You know, I wasn’t into it.

That changed around 2006, 2007, Continue reading “Ask a Norteño Fan: Manuel Martinez-Luna”

La Buena, La Mala, y Las Feas

Joan-Sebastian

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:

LA BUENA:

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.

LA MAL:

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.

EL FEO:

¡Nuevo! (starring Los Alegres, Los Alcapones, y más)

camacho fernandez

los alegresLast week NorteñoBlog noted that, when Los Cuates de Sinaloa were getting popular about a decade ago, Billboard hailed their guitar-based “musica de la sierra” as one of Mexico’s “new sounds” to keep an eye on. In the same milieu were Los Alegres de la Sierra, another family band who, from the looks of my hasty research, never made the jump to a major label but branched out musically just like Los Cuates did, adding members and instruments. Their self-released 2012 album Lagrimas En La Sierra is chipper accordion quartet stuff, new to streaming services, and I’m partial to “No Podrán.”

los alegres del barrancoSimilarly chipper and altitudinally minded, Los Alegres del Barranco have released a new single, the corrido “El Chino Piloto” (Hyphy). It’s chock full of fatalistic loneliness and helpful radar-evasion tactics, and its repeated eight-bar melody will dig a six-inch barranco through the middle of your skull.
Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (starring Los Alegres, Los Alcapones, y más)”

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