In the Travel section of this morning's New York Times, writer Lawrence Downes devotes a nice chunk of ink to Los Angeles' Mexican corridos scene. It's a solid, incredibly informative piece, and deserves a serious read if you're looking for a primer on an aspect of LA music culture a world away from the saturated rock, pop and hip hop scenes that get most of the attention (guilty as charged). The centerpiece of the feature is the late badass Chalino Sánchez:
He has been dead since 1992. He was ambushed and executed after a concert in Sinaloa, his body dumped by a roadside. Plaza Los Arcos, the nightclub in Coachella, Calif., where he sealed his reputation as someone not to mess with -- an audience member shot him; he pulled his own gun and shot back -- is closed. He died at 31.
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In clubs, bars, swap meets and concert halls, from car radios and ringing cellphones, you will hear corridos, old-time folk ballads in the banda and norteño styles. "Corridos are part of the literature of the common people," wrote Chris Strachwitz, who founded Arhoolie Records and has spent a lifetime collecting and studying traditional Mexican music.
Many of these songs will be narcocorridos, stories of bandits and outlaws updated to the age of drug cartels and AK-47s, and known to some, because of their grim authenticity and bad reputation, as "the rap of modern Mexico."
In Los Angeles, Mexican Songs Without Borders