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Los Tucanes De Tijuana

¡Feliz 2017! (y ¡Lo Mejor de 2016!)

new-years-eve

Well, that was a terrible year, wasn’t it? But as disappointment turns to fear, fear into love, and love to resistance, let’s remember why you came to NorteñoBlog in the first place: accordions and tubas, cumbias and corridos, gritos and gallos, all racing around at breakneck speeds and knocking shit over.

Here are some of the most-clicked items from the blog’s most clicked year. Thanks for reading!

beto-with-fireBeto Cervantes D.E.P.
Juan Gabriel might have been the most iconic musician in Mexico, but for certain music fans — the kind who run internet searches for the details of sordid deaths — Beto Cervantes’ untimely death in September came as a shock. Or maybe not. Roughly one fifth of NorteñoBlog’s 2016 visitors came to read Manuel’s 2015 article on Beto, which covered his previous assassination attempt as well as some of his best songs.

tomen-notaEl Karma Karma Karma Comes Back to You Hard
Speaking of dead corrideros, Ariel Camacho continued to intrigue internet listeners. His own songs and those of his band, Los Plebes del Rancho, racked up enormous numbers of internet streams and had a stubborn presence on Billboard‘s Hot Latin Songs chart for most of the year. NorteñoBlog looked the Sierreño wave in the articles ¡Pisteando! (featuring Chuy Zuñiga), Wristwatch Porn and White Slavery (ft. “Tomen Nota”), and Attack of the Teen Idols. Buncha people also clicked on 2015’s Who Played It Better: Ariel Camacho or These Dudes?

los-inquietos-del-norte-requisito-americano-feat-marco-flores-y-la-numero-1-banda-jerezTrap Is Hyphy and Hyphy Is Trap
Speaking of stubborn, the twin phenomena of hyphy norteño (existence iffy) and the Hyphy record label (going strong!) continued to fascinate. NorteñoBlog covered both in the 2015 article Pronounced “Jai-Fi”: The Rise and Fall of Hyphy Norteño, and happily learned about Martín Patrón‘s hardcore “trap corridos” in the above linked Trap Is Hyphy and Hyphy Is Trap. We also heard from a band of hyphy-not-hyphy progenitors in Marco Flores y Los Inquietos Saluden a Su Madre.

el-americanoTop 5 W.T.F. Corrido Moments!
Speaking of corridos, Omar Ruiz‘s song “El Americano,” re-recorded with the kickass band Fuerza de Tijuana, became an unexpected U.S. radio hit and sent people to Manuel’s above-linked 2015 article, where you can see Ruiz singing the song to its subject, Boston narco George Jung. And, perhaps feeling guilty about all these corrido articles but nonetheless digging the new Tucanes tune, Josh wondered How Do We Hear Violent Corridos?

100 Regional Mexican Compilations Released in 2015
But it wasn’t all corridos! The article above looked at the curious prevalence of Regional Mexican compilation albums, even though such albums seem to be dying in the rest of the music industry. We also looked at the histories of the Mexican radio market in Houston and, in a still-popular 2015 article, Chicago. And if you ever wondered what’s behind the Houston Rodeo’s “Go Tejano Day” — well, here you go.

sergio-floresAlso — and be sure to pour one out for the late George Michael, who inspired the name of this feature — Yo. Quiero. Tu. Saxo.

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 9/28/16

marcello-gamiz

The best recent song to hit the Mexican radio top 10 is probably the #4 hit “Al Rescate,” the latest in the ongoing cry for help disguised as a brass band, Banda Los Recoditos. Having set aside a nice piece of land for themselves in the “ayyyy chiquitita I’m drunk and it’s your fault” territory, Luis Angel Franco and company seem content to mine that turf for whatever they can find, for the rest of their lives — which probably won’t be long, given the volatile state of their collective liver. Typically, their horn chart is accomplished and stuffed with counterpoint, and El Flaco is the most charismatic guy at the bar, savoring some strategically placed high notes that sound like they were written for his voice. VALE LA PENA, even if you’ve heard 20 other Recoditos songs just like it.

Also solid is the song sitting at #5, La Adictiva’s brassed up take on another “ayyyy chiquitita I’m drunk and it’s your fault” song: “Que Caro Estoy Pagando.” Formerly a hit in El Norte for Sierreño heartbreakers Los Plebes del Rancho de Ariel Camacho, the song transitions to its new instrumental setting with stately melodic leaps intact, though I do miss the scratch in José Manuel Lopez Castro’s voice. VALE LA PENA.

But that’s the chart that measures “Audiencia.” The real action is over on the “Tocadas” chart, where — I’m guessing — we see adventurous radio programmers in smaller markets testing the waters for more VALE LA PENA songs like:

Los Horóscopos’ “Qué Chulada de Papucho”: Continue reading “Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 9/28/16”

Beto Cervantes D.E.P.

beto white hat

Multiple news outlets have reported that 42-year-old singer José Alberto Cervantes Nieto, aka Beto Cervantes of the band Explosión Norteña, has died. At around 11am Thursday morning, he was shot at the corner of calle Art. 27 and calle Michoacán in the Constitución colony of Rosarito, Baja California.

beto cervantesAs Manuel wrote almost a year ago, Cervantes has been attacked before, probably because he and his band have (allegedly) been cozy with a cartel and cartels (most definitely) shoot people. Indeed, Explosión’s latest album, De Regreso Y Con Bastante Decisión (ARS), has sparked several rounds of Hasty Cartel Googling as NorteñoBlog tries to figure out corrido protagonists like El Flakito and El XL. One rumor suggests Cervantes was killed by a rival cartel when he refused to write them a corrido — a courageous move, if it’s true, when your prospective employers brandish guns and offer you up to $50,000 for a day’s work. Continue reading “Beto Cervantes D.E.P.”

Archivos de 2001: Los Twiins Break Through

los twiins

Lovelorn bounces and classic fanfares, old hats and new jacks, and early work by one of the most influential production duos of the past two decades, any genre: these were Billboard‘s top 10 Regional Mexican songs on May 19, 2001.

1. “No Te Podias Quedar”Conjunto Primavera (#4 Hot Latin)
The pride of Ojinaga, the gas-guzzling romantics of the road, Primavera scored their fifth Hot Latin top 10 with this soppy contribution from their go-to songwriter Jesús Guillén. Sometimes songwriters just find a niche, and Guillén was put on this earth to write soaring climaxes for the cavernous throat of Tony Melendez, the continent’s best singer before Primavera’s output dropped off and Julión Álvarez came along. The song itself barely exists.

2. “Y Llegaste Tú”Banda El Recodo (#6 Hot Latin)
In 2001, after 60 years of playing brass band shows to adoring but limited audiences, Recodo was enjoying the public’s newfound vogue for banda music and their first gold album. A couple years earlier, they’d begun hiring producer brothers Adolfo and Omar Valenzuela, aka Los Twiins, aka the bankrollers of El Movimiento Alterado later in the decade. (El Komander still records for them.) The brothers had their identical fingers on the pulse of the youth, and in this song they led Recodo toward a sound that blanketed the airwaves all year, and then for years afterward — a newly written Noel Hernandez song that sounded trad yet vibrant, with a arrangement that turned contrasting instrumental sections into hooks. Plus, “We’ve learned how to really tune the banda,” said Omar, “which [in the past] maybe wasn’t really done.” Progress! Pick to Click!

los tigres paisano3. “Me Declaro Culpable”Los Tigres del Norte (#13 Hot Latin)
Sad limericks of lost love — with sax! Continue reading “Archivos de 2001: Los Twiins Break Through”

¡Nuevo! (starring Los Plebes, Los Tucanes, y más)

cuisillos

Pura Rienda SueltaIt is the longstanding position of NorteñoBlog that the puro sax styles of Chihuahua and Zacatecas would improve with the addition of more terrible “sax” puns in the titles. The Zacatecan-I-think quintet Luis Ruiz y la Embarcacion de la Musica Norteña has just released their second album Pura Rienda Suelta (Goma) (alternate title: Cuidado Con La Bestia Saxy), and on first listen it stands out from the puro sax pack. Por ejemplo, accordion and sax hang out on a repetitive minor-chord riff in their single “Me Enamoré” (sequel title: “Tuvimos Saxo”). In a subgenre that’s almost oppressively chipper, minor chords count for plenty. But even on chipper tunes like Regulo Caro’s oft-covered “La Buchona” (alternate title: “Labios Saxys”), Ruiz’s clarion voice sells the songs. He’s got a way of making the most heartfelt pleas sound tossed-off. Thumbs up indeed, Sr. Ruiz.

los plebesImprobably (and not at all saxily), Los Plebes Del Rancho de Ariel Camacho are climbing closer to the Hot Latin top 10 with their single “DEL Negociante,” written by their DEL Records labelmates Revolver Cannabis. Like “Me Enamoré,” “DEL” boasts a memorable minor-key riff. Unlike “Me Enamoré,” it features the teenaged José Manuel Lopez Castro pinch hitting for previous lead singer Ariel Camacho, who died a year ago, and he’s singing a song about their label boss, Angel Del Villar. This is both crass and wonderful. After Jimi Hendrix died, imagine his rhythm section renamed themselves “Experience Hendrix,” hired the fresh-faced Neil Young as a frontman, and scored a hit with “Lonely at the Top (Reprise),” written by Randy Newman in honor of Reprise Records boss Frank Sinatra. And then they recorded a whole album! While we’ll never know the results of that particular thought experiment, we can hear Recuerden Mi Estilo (DEL), which sounds pretty good. Lopez Castro lacks the immediate charisma of his predecessor, but tubist Omar Burgos has more than enough to share. Continue reading “¡Nuevo! (starring Los Plebes, Los Tucanes, y más)”

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)”

NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2015: Julio – Septiembre

marco flores

UPDATED YOUTUBE PLAYLIST HERE

Three months ago on our Top Singles list, NorteñoBlog was concerned about a lack of chart hits and puro sax music. Worry no more! There’s a bit less variety on this list than before, in part because I devoted the month of agosto to a project that prevented me from trawling for indie singles. (More on that project soon.) But the states of California, Chihuahua, Texas, Tijuana, and Zacatecas all represent below, along with ever-present Sinaloa.

(First quarter singles are here; second quarter singles are here.)

1. Marco A. Flores y Su Numero Uno Banda Jerez“Amor de la Vida Alegre” (Garmex)
Mexican radio hit
Flores, who also made NorteñoBlog’s favorite single six months ago, is like the Ramones with better beats, Rae Sremmurd if they were fast, early Madonna with a better voice. He makes termite art of the most gnawing and forward-thinking sort. He spends half this song crowing over just drums and tuba.


Continue reading “NorteñoBlog’s Top Singles of 2015: Julio – Septiembre”

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”

Who’s On the Mexican Radio? 8/7/15

fidelrueda3_1-460x261

A crowded field of contenders met this week, selling themselves to a fickle public by trying to outshout their rivals. As they took their places on the public stage, arranged according to their polling numbers, some sported relatively fresh faces while others had clearly been here before. Broadcast to the masses, they broached the familiar topics of family values and the plight of the working class. They touted their hardscrabble origins and titanic work ethics. One challenger had amassed unimaginable wealth and made certain everyone in the audience knew it. The contenders spared no expense, and certainly no words, in their attempt to move one step closer to claiming the world’s most powerful and coveted title.

I refer, of course, to NorteñoBlog’s prestigious Pick to Click.

There are eight new songs, to be exact, since the last time we checked the Mexican radio charts five weeks ago. I’m afraid I can’t assign their singers one-to-one correspondence with the… unique field of candidates seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. president. Although both groups contain mostly men — in this thought experiment, the part of Carly Fiorina will be played by Los Horóscopos — the Mexican radio stars are not, so far as I can tell, frightening power-mad scaredy cats. Here are their strong suits, from lowest polling to highest:

At #20, Diego Herrera sings a tribute to the families who’ve stood behind their famous norteño singing sons. This could have lapsed into sap, but Herrera is a masterful singer who lands each of his many words with precision and dexterity. Plus he uses the word “chingones” over and over. (Since I don’t think Miss Manners has covered it, this Latina article dissects how appropriate the word is for polite company. Opinions vary!)

At #19, the man with the continent’s best voice, Julión Álvarez, sings about love (as he does) in one of his better recent tunes, a fast banda. He’s also the only person I know who has convincingly sung the word “irremediablemente.”

Los Tucanes and their rich friends Código FN are at #18, singing a corrido about the big name bandas who play their fancy parties, where the liquor bottles flow like spit valves and muchachas dangle from arms. How did our hosts get all their money? Don’t ask questions!

At #17, the members of La Estructura, a relatively new quartet/quintet, are weary. Their gauntlet of negotiating the nightlife and trying to win back a pretty mujer has tuckered them out. As the tubist blarts out sad counterpoint the lead singer stops traffic to block his ex’s SUV and plead his case. Improbably, this works.

Mariachi Pedro Fernández is at lucky #13 with a cover of Leandro Rios’s excellent rhyming exercise/claim to hardcore ranchero roots, “Debajo Del Sombrero.” The song remains great, but Fernández’s take sounds too smooth, even perfunctory, as though he and his well tooled mariachi machine are racing through it.

Up at #9, Fidel Rueda insists, over speedy banda, that he is not el mandadero, for whom he is sometimes confused by assholes. Rather, la moneda está volteada, y Rueda es él que manda. Merely for serving as a furious rebuke to some of those frightening power-mad scaredy cats, this would be a front-runner for Pick to Click status. Turns out it’s a fine song, too. I’ll entertain a motion from the floor.

I mean, you knew it wasn’t gonna go to those Sebastianes or Arrolladora ballads, they just kept crying all over the place.

(BTW, the top 3 songs remain unchanged from five weeks ago. Meet the new jefes, same as the old jefes.)

These are the Top 20 “Popular” songs in Mexico, as measured by monitorLATINO. Don’t confuse “Popular” with the “General” list, which contains many of the same songs but also “Worth It,” “See You Again,” “Cheerleader,” and a Kalimba song that strums along forgettably.

1. “Aunque Ahora Estés Con Él” – Calibre 50
2. “Piensalo” – Banda MS
3. “Por Qué Terminamos” – Gerardo Ortiz
4. “Para Qué Pides Perdón” – La Arrolladora Banda El Limón
5. “Después de Ti ¿Quién?” – La Adictiva Banda San Jose
6. “¿Cómo Te Llamas?” – Banda La Trakalosa
7. “Por Si No Recuerdas” – Banda Los Sebastianes
8. “Me Interesa” – Alfredo Ríos El Komander
9. “Ya No Soy El Mandadero” – Fidel Rueda
10. “Por Si Estas Con El Pendiente” – Voz De Mando

11. “Mi Vicio Mas Grande” – Banda El Recodo
12. “Tu Mami” – Chuy Lizarraga
13. “Debajo del Sombrero” – Pedro Fernández
14. “No Te Voy a Perdonar” – Grupo Cañaveral ft. Maria Leon
15. “Abrázame” – Pesado
16. “Diferentes Niveles” – Claudio Alcaraz
17. “Retiro Lo Dicho” – La Estructura
18. “Suena La Banda” – Los Tucanes de Tijuana ft. Código FN
19. “Pongamonos de Acuerdo” – Julión Álvarez y Su Norteño Banda
20. “Fregones Mis Viejos” [aka “Chingones Mis Viejos”] – Diego Herrera

¡Adios!
“Yo Pongo Las Reglas” – La Poderosa Banda San Juan
“Si No Te Hubiera Conocido” – Bobby Pulido
“50 Mentadas” – Banda Rancho Viejo
“Broche De Oro” – Banda La Trakalosa
“Me Toco Perder” – Banda Los Recoditos
“El Amor de Su Vida” – Julión Álvarez
“Sal De Mi Vida” – La Original Banda El Limón
“Confesion” – La Arrolladora Banda El Limón

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