Thursday, September 22, 2011

Don't Shoot the Accordion Player

On the afternoon of the Grito, we visited the home of a guy in Culiacán who writes narcocorridos - basically, gangsta rap for accordion, extolling the virtues of whichever hardass commissioned the tune. He charges $1,000 per corrido, and judging by the very modest house he still lives in with his family, he's probably written less than a dozen over the years. The family has a small grocery store in the front of their house, and as we pulled up a municipal cop was leaning against the counter, chatting amiably with the guy's dad. We went in and set up in the service patio, surrounded by drying laundry, and listened to his Corrido del Chapo Guzmán and a few others.


We're groping for a delicate way to put this, but... the brother was really not very good. His voice was okay, and the lyrics were of the usual "His pistol is loaded/ And so are his balls / And he'll drink from the skulls of his enemies..." variety. [Note to Simon Cowell: we just made up that lyric on the spot.] But his accordion skills were on par with this kid's. To be clear, though, this just makes us dig the guy even more. In an art form where a bad review can mean blood on your dashboard, it takes some serious cojones to not bother to practice your instrument.


After a few songs he cut the performance short because he had to get ready to play at an Independence Day party that night. As we didn't have any evening plans, we asked if we could come with him. He just laughed. The host of the party (he said) was Ismael Zambada-Garcia, aka El Mayo, one of the biggest drug lords in Mexico. Assuming that was true, we suppose it's kind of interesting that one of the most wanted men in Mexico (with a $5 million price on his head from the FBI) is still living in Culiacán (or at any rate, a short ride from this guy's house) and is comfortable enough to throw an Independence Day party, with security lax enough that the entertainment is comfortable telling an American tv crew what his plans are.

We said our goodbyes out in the street as he climbed into the car that would take him to El Mayo's place. The police officer out front had wandered off by then.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow Burro, I just read your articles. Wow! You left the safety of your town.

Look, this Arizona kid stole data from Sony. (can't believe there are smart kids, that smart, in Arizona).

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-0923-sony-hacker-20110922,0,1667029.story?track=rss&dlvrit=104530

Back to Twitter...

Burro Hall said...

I like to think I left the safety of my town when I went to NY for four months.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Burro, of course you've read the book Narcocorrido? It was an interesting book with some good background on the subject and more well known composers/singers.

http://www.amazon.com/Narcocorrido-Journey-Music-Drugs-Guerrillas/dp/0060505109/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1316805283&sr=1-1

Burro Hall said...

Indeed. That's why I linked to it above.

Richard said...

El Mayo and Chapo certainly support local suppliers wherever possible (and between the two of them, they're related to half the state), but they expect good service for the money they shell out.

Ever think this kid was feeding you a line? Telling tall tales to outsiders has been a Culiacan tradition since Estaban the Slave and Álvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca came up with the story of the Seven Cities of Gold in a Culiacán cantina. Of course, Estaban got stabbed in said cantina, but probably not for bullshitting.

Burro Hall said...

Hence the caveats "he said" and "assuming that was true." The guy's whole job is to compose fictionalized narratives. Still, it didn't seem prudent to demand proof.