Bazooka-Strapped Musicians Celebrate the Violence of Mexico’s Drug War
For years now, Mexican and Mexican-American singers have been rising to fame based on music that celebrates the violent lifestyle associated with the drug war south of the border. They belt out songs about drugs and guns and are often compared to rappers in the U.S. for the way they sensationalize violence. Only the songs aren’t about themselves, they’re about actual drug lords.
The songs are called narcocorridos, and filmmaker Shaul Schwarz recently spent two years following Edgar Quintero, a singer with the group BuKnas de Culiacan and a rising star of the genre. Schwarz’s film, Narco Cultura, opens in New York this Friday.
“While death statistics have been documented ad nauseam, far less has been said about the broader social reality created by the drug trade,” says Schwarz.
To write their songs, which are often celebrations of one person or one cartel, artists like Quintero will talk to the narco-traffickers on the phone and ask them things like what kinds of guns they use, what kind of acts they’ve committed, then pen the songs and have the narcos sign off on the final version. Sometimes there’s a big geographical disconnect between singer and content — Quintero actually lives in Los Angeles, has a family and only recently performed for the first time in Juarez.