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.
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.