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Los Tigres Del Norte

How Do We Hear Violent Corridos? (Desfile de Éxitos 3/12/16)

los tucanes

Thanks to Los Tucanes de Tijana, NorteñoBlog has been forced into another installment of our occasional feature HASTY CARTEL GOOGLING. This long-running quintet of corrideros is nothing if not consistent, and they’re back at #20 on the Regional Mexican airplay chart with “Panchito El F1,” a pro forma cartel ballad ripped from the headlines by their prolific songwriter Mario Quintero. The story concerns a real life honcho of the Gulf Cartel in Zacatecas. Until recently he operated under the nombres de cartel “Panchito” and “F1,” but was captured along with coworkers in May. The federales also confiscated some of the cartel’s heavy weaponry, including four grenade launchers and four AK47s. (No andan cazando venados con esa mierda, amirite?) The song is Panchito’s origin story: when ordered to kill someone else’s family, he refuses. As a penalty, his own family is kidnapped and tortured, but he gets them back. (I think; standard gabacho translation caveats apply.) The corrido also mentions a different Gulf Cartel honcho named Comandante Hamburguesa. Since this Hamburgler appears to be still at large, NorteñoBlog will leave his Hasty Cartel Googling up to you!

Does current Mexican law permit narcocorridos on the radio? This recent article suggests “Panchito El F1” is probably banned from Mexico’s airwaves because it “publicly supports criminal actions.” (I’m sure the Gulf Cartel is wondering why membership is down.) As we saw in our last round of Hasty Cartel Googling, this ban is not absolute: La Séptima Banda recently charted with the wafer-thin character study “El Hijo del Ingeniero,” based on the party habits of a real life cartel scion. But that’s a party song. “F1” has violence and weaponry and is not the sort of thing the Mexican government wants impressionable muchachos to hear. You know, all those muchachos who listen to the radio but don’t know how to work Youtube.

NorteñoBlog does not support banning violent corridos from the radio, because banning violent corridos from the radio is silly. Corrido bans are the ineffective smokescreens of an utterly failed war on drugs. Better to focus on the corruption that prevents Mexico from thoroughly prosecuting its criminals. Better to alleviate Mexico’s poverty, or to deal with drug-addicted El Norte; these are the blights that have driven Mexican people to the cartels. (A possibly optimistic statistic: “A 2012 study by the Mexcian Institute of Competitiveness (IMCO) figured if the U.S. legalized marijuana, Mexican drug cartels would lose 30 percent of their revenue.”) There are no simple solutions; but whatever the solutions might be, neoliberal outrage over suppressing free speech is a secondary issue.

So here’s the real question when it comes to songs like “F1”: What do people hear in violent corridos, and why? Continue reading “How Do We Hear Violent Corridos? (Desfile de Éxitos 3/12/16)”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 2/16/16

lafourcade

First off, NorteñoBlog congratulates friends of the blog Los Tigres, Natalia Lafourcade, and most charming man alive Pitbull on their recent Grammy wins. Los Tigres’ very good Realidades won for “Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano),” a category that included no Tejano albums but whose name testifies to the lingering power of the Tejano voting bloc. Or at least to the outspoken crankiness of the Tejano voting bloc. (I assume there’s still a Tejano voting bloc.) Lafourcade’s fine Hasta La Raíz tied with Pitty Wap’s intermittently banging Dale for “Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album.” NorteñoBlog woulda picked Maquinaria Norteña for Regional and Bomba Estéreo for Rock/Urban/Alternative — after all, the Bombas excel in all three areas — but these were still respectable and relevant choices.

Next, NorteñoBlog congratulates Espinoza Paz for writing lots of decent, non-sappy songs recently. Paz is capable of biting hilarity — see Marco Flores’s “El Pajarito” and Los Horóscopos’ “Estoy Con Otro En La Cama.” He can also concoct musical experiments that look deceptively simple, like Arrolladora’s “Cabecita Dura” — 120 straight syllables without pause or apparent breath! — and straight up banda bangers like Roberto Tapia’s new single “Vale La Pena.” (That video seems to have fallen off a truck, so watch it while you can.) Back in 2009, after he’d won his second straight BMI songwriter of the year award, Billboard‘s Leila Cobo interviewed Paz, a former migrant worker who doesn’t read music.

Cobo: How would you describe your music?

Paz: Commercial.

True enough; and like most professionals he’s had some bad days at the office, especially in solo work like “Sin Esencia,” a pensive smell-the-fart guitar ballad. Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 2/16/16”

Archivos de 2004 (starring Grupo Climax, Alicia Villarreal, y más)

Grupo_Climax

Sometimes when you’re feeling whimsical/bored/done with dishes, you just decide to research the chart statistics of Grupo Climax. Or I do — I may be atypical. One thing leads to another, za za za, and so here are Billboard‘s top 10 Regional Mexican airplay songs from July 17, 2004, the week Climax’s only notable hit enjoyed its highest chart placement. Hot Latin chart placement is in parentheses.

Note that in 2004, the Hot Latin charts were still strictly based on airplay: “A panel of 99 stations (40 Latin Pop, 16 Tropical, 51 Regional Mexican) are electronically monitored 24 hrs. a day, 7 days a week.” (Today they also incorporate sales and streams, but there remain breakout charts like Regional Mexican that measure only airplay.) This accounting method placed five RegMex songs inside the Hot Latin top 10, a percentage we never see today; but it also meant the Hot Latin top 25 contained 10 regional Mexican songs, pretty typical by today’s standards.

1. “Qué de Raro Tiene” – Los Temerarios (#2 Hot Latin)
Trembly-eyebrowed synth-pop grupero brothers go nostalgic with an album of ranchera covers, including this Vicente Fernández cover that would top the Hot Latin chart. Gustavo Angel unleashes his throat and sounds right at home in this style. (Be sure to check out their AllMusic bio for a fascinating look at how the brothers started their own label and challenged Fonovisa, only to eventually be swallowed by the giant.)

2. “Dos Locos” – Los Horóscopos de Durango (#5 Hot Latin)
“The Durango Gang Busts Out of Chicago,” read the Billboard headline on June 12, shortly after this song had topped the Regional Mexican chart. Los Horóscopos had been a working banda for 30 years before their enterprising leader Armando Terrazas decided to put his daughters, the multi-instrumentalists Vicky and Marisol, up front. This sad polka cover of Monchy & Alexandra was cut from the same bachata cloth as their cover of Aventura’s “Obsesion,” and it hits one of duranguense’s sweet spots — floaty heartache over nonstop oompahs. (The other sweet spot is clattery barely-constrained synth-tuba chaos, but that didn’t chart as much.) Continue reading “Archivos de 2004 (starring Grupo Climax, Alicia Villarreal, y más)”

Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño

amos 2008

After first appearing at the 2014 EMP Pop Conference in Seattle, this article ran last spring at Maura Magazine; I reprint it here with their kind permission.

————————————–
amos 1996Here’s the story of a band from Modesto,
A small city east of San Francisco.
Led by the brothers Guajardo,
They’re known to the world as Los Amos.

amos 2001They got started back in the mid-’90s
Playing los narcocorridos,
And over the course of a decade,
Los Amos altered their appearance

amos 2006From flashy-shirted, big-hatted cowboys
To black-suited, no-hatted tough guys,
Los Amos’ transformation was dramatic,
And their music changed right along with them.

This transition was shaped by two forces:
The demands of their well-structured business,
But also their repeated incantations
Of one magic word from the Bay…

HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY HYPHY

But before we get hyphy, we need to answer this question: Why were some guys in Modesto, California, playing corridos—Mexican story songs about the drug trade—for a living in the first place? The answer lies with two names, corridistas you’ve probably heard of, immigrants to los Estados Unidos, legends in their field.
Continue reading “Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño”

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”

Los Tigres on the Jukebox

los tigres idolos

And not a moment too soon! The Singles Jukebox finally wrote about Los Tigres and their extended (and SAXY) pickup line “Qué Tal Si Eres Tú.” It’s an unorthodox introduction to their storied career, but in my opinion it’s as good as any:

…aka, the one where Hernán Hernández sings triplets, the one where Óscar Lara plays two different drum patterns, and the one with ALL THOSE MINOR CHORDS. I know I’m missing stuff, but after they’ve spent 40-odd years sifting through subtle shades of dry bounce, “Qué Tal” resembles a great Saguaro-like flowering of Los Tigres’ sound.

Fellow Jukeboxer Tara Hillegeist wrote well about the subtleties of bajo sexto playing and prompted me to listen again.

VALE LA PENA

¡Nuevo! (starring Noel Torres, Omar Sánchez Omi, y más)

bobby pulido

Well this is the stuff of myth and legend:

Desde el filo de la sierra
Viene la historia que traigo:
Que por esas tierras
Suelta anda una fiera
Entre aquellos pinos altos…

From the edge of the sierra
Comes the story that I bring:
Through those lands
Freely walks a beast
Among those tall pines …

Plenty of corridos begin in a similar manner, of course, establishing their (anti)heroes as larger than life figures. But Noel Torres’s new single on Gerencia 360, “No Andan Cazando Venados” (“Don’t Go Hunting Deer”), opens with knowing mastery of the form. Torres begins by placing himself into the story as storyteller, thus joining the long historical line of corridistas, stretching back not just to Ramon Ayala but to Homer recounting the tales of brave Ulysses. (“Tell me, O Muse…”) Then things get scary. I admit I shuddered when I got to the part about the beast roaming through the tall pines — it’s such a contrast with the folksy opening, and “fiera” arrives at the end of its line with a jolt. Torres reclaims the word’s savagery. (I swear, if I hear one more TV chef tell me he’s “a beast in the kitchen”…) Now I just need to figure out the rest of the song. Something to do with the DEA and big-ass guns. The translation service is limited help in this case.

The song was written by El Diez and Danilo Avilés. El Diez is the shadowy figure who wrote the equally mythic “El Karma,” recorded most iconically by the late Ariel Camacho, but also by Torres and lots of other people. Avilés wrote the second song on Camacho’s El Karma album, and Torres’s arrangement of “Venados” sounds like he’s adapting Camacho’s unusual instrumentation. He takes stripped down passages of requinto guitar solos over lurching tuba, the same dynamic you find in Camacho’s repertoire, and alternates them with full banda sections. Horns replace rhythm guitar. The result is both serious and silly (ay, esos clarinetes), a fitting tribute that also fits with Torres’s swagger. Pick to Click, obviously.

ramon ayalaShould you develop a hankering to delve into corrido history, the Freddie label has released a new Ramon Ayala comp entitled Corridos Famosos. Ayala’s muse speaks to him the tales of brave Gerardo Gonzales, Juanita y Miguel, y otros. No idea how this compares with other Ayala compilations out there.

If we’re already talking (probably) unnecessary cheapo Ramon Ayala reissues, you may have guessed it’s a light week for albums. You’re right! The singles, though, they never stop. Fonovisa has recently sent to radio new work from some of its heaviest hitters. Los Tigres are back with their third Realidades single, the midtempo waltz “Hoy Le Hablo El Diario,” which does the thing where the rhythm section rushes the second beat of every bar so the waltz feels slightly nauseating. In a good way. If you like beards and flannel and don’t wanna move to Seattle, Codigo FN has a slow one out called “Pinche Vieja Interesada,” which is less interesante than its title. Better are the new Proyecto X corrido “5 Letras,” reeling off verse after verse like a gold-plated machine gun eating up magazines, and Remmy Valenzuela’s very stripped-down chiquitita ballad “Menti,” in which his accordion seems capable of breath and thought.

Bobby PulidoBut who needs major label distribution when the internet frontier beckons musicians to simply release their own music? Tejano singer Bobby Pulido has been on the scene since the mid-’90s, and his new “Si No Te Hubiera Conocido” is a likable walking tempo number that could’ve come from Intocable — but does Intocable have its own line of Western wear (see top of page)? I submit that Intocable does NOT.

los grandesThe equally breezy Los Grandes de Tijuana DRANK YOUR LOVE! Just drank it right up. Los Grandes are also ’90s music lifers, and “Me Bebi Tu Amor” has the lazy front-porch-with-squeezebox vibe of Bob Dylan’s Tejano album Together Through Life, still my favorite of his post-’70s catalog.

omar sanchezNorteñoBlog swooned when Gerardo Ortiz mixed up the banda with the bachata in “Eres Una Niña,” and now I hear Omar Sánchez Omi trying something similar on “Tu y Yo.” Rhythmically it doesn’t vary too much from Recodo’s romantic moods, but Sánchez’s voice is husky and swarthy like King Romeo’s and could have some of the same R&B appeal, if enough people hear him. Sánchez used to sing for Chicago’s Alacranes Musical, one of my favorite duranguense bands, and there exists a photo of him dressed up like Santa Claus and standing next to Diana Reyes, so I’m pulling for him.

Desfile de Éxitos 5/2/15

malditas ganas

Some NorteñoBlog favorites are climbing the Billboard charts this week, and so NorteñoBlog is happy, even as “Bailando” doble “El Perdón” continues at #1. Ariel Camacho’s love song “Te Metiste” is either laconic or intense, possibly depending on whether in it you hear echoes of his signature song “El Karma,” which grows stranger with every spin on the radio. “Te Metiste” is at #19 on Hot Latin and nowhere on the airplay list, indicating support from mostly streams and downloads, but give it time — regional Mexican radio knows to respond to listeners’ whims, so all those clicks could yet translate into another weird radio song.

A little further down, Alfredo Ríos El Komander’s shambolic breakup song “Malditas Ganas” is at #24, making it his second biggest solo hit after last year’s “Soy De Rancho.” In fact, in the third verse Ríos offers to serenade his lost love with “Soy De Rancho,” but he still ends the song lonely. The same thing happens to me whenever I serenade my wife with “Soy De Rancho.” This song’s been kicking around the Mexican chart all year, so let’s roll out the welcome mat. And while we’re at it, let’s welcome Los Tigres’ bouncy pickup line “Que Tal Si Eres Tu” to El Norte’s radios. The second single from Realidades is wonderfully spry, especially when you consider Los Tigres are basically at the same career point as the Stones when they released A Bigger Bang.

In non-norteño news, #3 “Propuesta Indecente” is now 91 weeks old; I propose it stick some tennis balls on its walker before it scratches up my floors. And at #5, Wisin et al’s entirely decent “Nota de Amor” would like an order of paella from one clad in yellow underwear. At the Singles Jukebox, Juana Giaimo reasonably asks, “Why don’t you do it yourself?”

These are the top 25 Hot Latin Songs and top 20 Regional Mexican Songs, courtesy Billboard, as published May 2.

1. “El Perdón” – Nicky Jam & Enrique Iglesias
2. “Ay Vamos” – J Balvin
3. “Propuesta Indecente” – Romeo Santos (91 WEEKS OLD)
4. “Hablame de Ti” – Banda MS (#2 RegMex) (snoooooozzzzzz)
5. “Nota de Amor” – Wisin + Carlos Vives ft. Daddy Yankee
6. “Hilito” – Romeo Santos
7. “Contigo” – Calibre 50 (#1 RegMex)
8. “Travesuras” – Nicky Jam
9. “Mi Verdad” – Maná ft. Shakira
10. “Fanatica Sensual” – Plan B

11. “Sigueme y Te Sigo” – Daddy Yankee
12. “Pierdo la Cabeza” – Zion & Lennox
13. “El Amor De Su Vida” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda (#8 RegMex)
14. “Me Sobrabas Tu” – Banda Los Recoditos (#11 RegMex)
15. “Qué Tiene De Malo” – Calibre 50 ft. El Komander (#18 RegMex)
16. “Lejos De Aqui” – Farruko
17. “Dime” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda (#14 RegMex)
18. “Solita” – Prince Royce
19. “Te Metiste” – Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes del Rancho
20. “Soltero Disponible” – Regulo Caro (#3 RegMex)

21. “Lo Hiciste Otra Vez” – La Arrolladora Banda El Limón (#6 RegMex) (Oh dear, this is not good. Not just sap — meandering sap.)
22. “Juntos (Together)” – Juanes
23. “El Que Se Enamora Pierde” – Banda Carnaval (#5 RegMex)
24. “Malditas Ganas” – El Komander (#13 RegMex)
25. “Inocente” – Romeo Santos

¡Adios!
“Disparo Al Corazon” – Ricky Martin
“Yo También” – Romeo Santos ft. Marc Anthony
—————–

4. “Calla y Me Besas” – Enigma Norteña
7. “Levantando Polvadera” – Voz De Mando
9. “Que Aun Te Amo” – Pesado
10. “Eres Tú” – Proyecto X

12. “Como Tu No Hay Dos” – Los Huracanes del Norte
15. “Se Me Sigue Notando” – Chuy Lizarraga y Su Banda Tierra Sinaloense
16. “Todo Tuyo” – Banda El Recodo
17. “Si Te Vuelvo a Ver” – La Maquinaria Norteña
18. “Bonito Y Bello” – La Septima Banda
19. “Cuando La Miro” – Luis Coronel
20. “Que Tal Si Eres Tu” – Los Tigres Del Norte

¡Adios!
“No Te Vayas” – Fidel Rueda
“Eres Una Niña” – Gerardo Ortíz (#13 RegMex)
“El Karma” – Ariel Camacho y Los Plebes del Rancho (#11 RegMex)

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 4/10/15

iniciativa

This week’s two new songs present a conundrum. Do I prefer Los Recoditos’ new ballad “Me Toco Perder,” specifically the heartfelt manner in which the lead singer pronounces the word “estrellllllas,” holding himself back from the crucial high note until his vibrato bursts through like a tear-filled reservoir? Or should I direct you instead to the speedier pleasures of La Iniciativa’s “La Reina,” which has lots of stop-start precision and chewy tuba-vs.-accordion lines? Probably the latter. But there’s a third song that deserves your attention more: Ariel Camacho’s love song “Te Metiste,” debuting this week on Billboard’s Hot Latin chart but not the regional Mexican chart, which means it’s getting most of its listens from streams and/or downloads. This could still be the result of Camacho’s death bump, but I prefer to think people are seeking out this song because of its great melody played by an excellent band. Pick to click:

In other news, Julión Álvarez’s “El Amor de Su Vida” goes top 10 in both countries. Clearly I am wrong about it.

These are the Top 20 “Popular” songs in Mexico, as measured by radioNOTAS. Don’t confuse “Popular” with the “General” list, which contains many of the same songs but also “Uptown Funk!”, “Sugar,” and, sounding like they crashed from all that sugar, Juan Gabriel singing with Juanes.

1. “Contigo” – Calibre 50
2. “Después de Ti ¿Quién?” – La Adictiva Banda San Jose
3. “Que Tal Si Eres Tu” – Los Tigres Del Norte
4. “Perdi La Pose” – Espinoza Paz
5. “A Lo Mejor” – Banda MS
6. “Si Tuviera Que Decirlo” – Pedro Fernandez
7. “El Amor de Su Vida” – Julión Álvarez
8. “Confesion” – La Arrolladora Banda El Limón
9. “No Fue Necesario” – El Bebeto
10. “Todo Tuyo” – Banda El Recodo

11. “Malditas Ganas” – Alfredo Rios El Komander
12. “Indeleble” – Banda Los Sebastianes
13. “Escuchame” – Fidel Rueda
14. “Me Importas” – Los Primos MX
15. “Que Aún Te Amo” – Pesado
16. “Ponte Las Pilas” – America Sierra
17. “Que te Quede Claro” – Saul El Jaguar
18. “Adicto a la Tristeza” – Banda La Trakalosa ft. Pancho Uresti
19. “Me Toco Perder” – Banda Los Recoditos
20. “La Reina” – La Iniciativa

¡Adios!
“Sencillamente” – Raúl y Mexia + SuenaTron
“Culpable Fui (Culpable Soy)” – Intocable

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