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Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas Paperback – October 22, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Rayo; Reprint edition (October 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060505109
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060505103
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #258,956 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Guitar in hand, journalist and musician Wald (Josh White: Society Blues) takes a yearlong journey through Mexico and the southwestern U.S. tracking down composers and performers of the narcocorrido, a modern spinoff of the 19th-century Mexican folk ballad (corrido) that combines the traditional accompaniment of accordion and 12-string guitar (bajo sexto) with markedly current lyrics. Gone are the old "song stories" celebrating heroic generals and lost battles of the Mexican revolution. Narcocorridos romanticize the drug trade the botched smugglings, fallen kingpins and dishonorable police. Wald interviews dozens of key players, from Angel Gonzalez, whose 1972 "Contrabando y Traiciin" ("Smuggling and Betrayal") is credited with launching the narco-trend, to the Rivera family, whose popular Los Angeles record label releases "songs that are notable for their lack of social consciousness, their willingness to push the limits of acceptability and baldly cash in on the most violent and nasty aspects of the drug trade." The style has become hugely popular in L.A. and northwestern Mexico and has spawned a narcoculture marked by cowboy hats, sports suits and gold chains. Unfortunately, Wald's narrow, first-person account reads like a travel journal, blithely moving from subject to subject, ignoring historical context. He glosses over the U.S. and Mexican governments' antidrug military campaigns, which disrupted the lives of many innocent civilians. Wald may think the history of U.S.-Mexican drug trafficking has been sufficiently recounted elsewhere, but explaining the narcocorrido without this background is like writing a history of the American protest song without discussing Vietnam. B&w photos not seen by PW.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Wald (Josh White: Society Blues) hitchhiked across Mexico in search of the modern corrido, a popular musical genre that reports the heroics of its subjects against the backdrop of norte?o-like harmonies in guitar and accordion. His book focuses especially on the narcocorrido, a genre of ballad that glorifies gun-toting drug lords in a Mexican version of gangsta rap with accordions. In this personalized account, the author interviews corrido songwriters Angel Gonz lez and Paulino Vargas, who scored hits with Los Tigres del Norte, the most popular group of the genre. He takes his readers to Culiacan, the heart of the Mexican drug business, where archetypal corridista Chalino S nchez immortalized drug traffickers and their exploits before his own assassination. Wald moves next to Los Angeles, where the Chalino-influenced Riveras reign as the first family of the narcocorrido. In the last part of the book, he locates the more politically minded corridistas Enrique Franco and Jesse Armenta, travels to the Rio Bravo and the Texas border for Old West-style corridos, and takes a bus to Mexico City and the mountains of southern Mexico, where little-known corridistas sing paeans to Zapatista guerrillas. Wald ends with a visit to Michoacan, the southern Mexican drug capital, where he meets corrido legend Teodoro Bello. Half enthusiast and half ethnomusicologist, Wald offers an engaging, fascinating, and well-written account of a much-neglected musical style that will be irresistible to readers of all types. Dave Szatmary, Univ. of Washington, Seattle
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Best look to other books for these things, folks(or write it!
Kelli
It is a great research job very well done and estremely informative, specially for the novice in this kind of music.
Jose Torres
Mr. Wald goes hitch-hiking through all of Mexico in search of famous composers and interviews.
D. Luna

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jose Torres on July 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
Elijah Wald goes to Mexico in search of the roots of the corrido, and does a superb job as he finds and talks to the main composers and singers of the true and authentic mexican music. the book it's direct and extremely enjoyable. I read it in one afternoon and was unable to put it down until I finished it all.
The book it's about the corrido, it is not a political document or passes judgements on anyone lifestyle, only when it pertains to the corrido itself then he goes and gives you a little taste of the political, social and economic factors that relate to the music and living conditions of the people involved. It is a great research job very well done and estremely informative, specially for the novice in this kind of music. A winner!
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ned Sublette on December 31, 2001
Format: Hardcover
"Narcorridos" contains a wealth of previously unavailable information about the living culture of the corrido, a massively popular Mexican ballad form that seems to descend from the Castilian romance of the Middle Ages, typically telling stories of the bravery of men branded justly or unjustly as outlaws, or narrating sensational events in the local or international news.
In keeping with its traditions, the corrido in recent years evolved a new sub-genre which mythologizes the drug trafficker -- most vividly, through the figure of the singer Chalino Sánchez, whose violent career and death is central to the story.
Despite the book's name, it's about the world of music, not drugs. Though the narcocorrido phenomenon is thoroughly explored, the book is more than that. Wald is an experienced journalist who knows how to write a readable story. His comprehension of the culture is solid, and his narrative is entertaining and well-structured. He did a lot of his research hitchhiking around Mexico, and his personal narrative as investigator / questioner / outsider is deftly interwoven into the history and geography of the corrido.
If there were a prize for books of popular musicology this would be a strong contender. It has to be one of the best books on music published in the U.S. in 2001.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Fidel Rodriguez on November 17, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In Narcocorridos, Elijah Wald successfuly portrays the past present and future of the corrido as we know it. The absolute beauty of this book is the narrative and brilliant context that traces this style of music from its roots to what is now the booming of el Narcocorrido. This is the first piece of literature to my knowledge, that has taken such an indepth, surgical type research that includes every aspect of the composition of a corrido, from the talented people who right it as well as the great artists who make it, and the behind the scenes footage on all of their lives that make up the dominant public of this genre of music. I highly recommend Narcocorridos, for anyone who has ever been interested in Mexican music, is doing research on the subject, or just wants to read a tremendous read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By S. Soloff on October 12, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I grew up in the 50's in Los Angeles, California and I heard norteño, Tex-Mex, corridos as part of the background (musical wallpaper for me)of being Mexican-American. I say musical wallpaper because it smacked of country, of the recently immigrated. I prefered instead R&B. Later, I preferred anything (ragas, jazz, American folk, soul, tropical) other than the music that Elijah Wald writes about. After visiting Mexico several times as an adult and hearing rancheras and pop and cumbia, the feeling for the music of Mexico began to grow. After reading Mr. Wald's book I realized that I had ignored a genre of music that had, in fact, been a part of my life from the beginning. Read this book and then buy the music. If you are learning Spanish as a second language, you can generally find the lyrics on-line. There is no better way (short of taking a Mexican lover) to learn and love this beautiful language. The book is well-written, well-reasearched, and will open your musical mind.
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35 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Watujel on November 6, 2001
Format: Hardcover
On the 6th of November/year of 2001/Elijah Wald released a book/Its cover had a picture of a gun. He met a girl named Carmen/Said she was kinda "chunky"/Met a fat singer named Jenni/Said she looked really funky. Jenni's last name isn't Craig/But he didn't say how she really looks/Could it be that unlike Carmen/She might be reading his book? Said Jenni's dad is "anti-racist"/Though he prohibits English at home/Can you be a xenophobic anti-racist/Or does Wald just have rocks in his dome? Journalists who confront narco culture/Have been assassinated for what they tell us/But the author sees it differently/He's thinks they're just jealous. All those "ink-stained wretches"/Wald is dismissively taunting/They wish they could be Los Tucanes/Money and monobrow flaunting.
There are so many big things wrong with this book that I'm not going to even bother with its minor factual errors. First of all, one of the most obvious aspects of corridos is their extremely similar melodies and ways of ending. (Play the last 5 seconds of every song on a Tucanes corrido album to hear what I mean.) If you think you're going to get answers about where the melodies or chords came from, or why nearly all corrido practitioners conform to this musical norm, this book will disappoint.
If you want to know what women think of the glorification of violence and crime, or wonder why the only marginally famous female corridista is a Chicana, you will also be disappointed. Wald unquestioningly goes along with the relegation of Mexican women to ornamental roles, noticeable for their age and looks but not valued for their opinions.
Wald is simply not enough of an investigative reporter to challenge his sources.
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More About the Author

For information about Elijah Wald, his books, his recordings, his other writings, and so forth and so on, visit http://www.elijahwald.com

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