As a reader and member of LatinoGigs you already know, music has tremendous power, and can thus be a strong tool in transmitting important messages to a wide audience. Music moves us as artists to create personal pieces, often times portrayals of real life. However, what happens when music reaches beyond the hearts of fans and it affects the public and the overriding issues that we face in society? Today banda music is undeniably more intertwined with drug culture than ever before. If we deny this truth we’re deceiving ourselves.
It’s been more than two weeks since Tito Torbellino was supposedly murdered at the hands of an organized crime group in the City of Oregón. The most popular bands in Mexico have performed at countless parties of notorious bosses. With more than 80,000 deaths and thousands of disappearances based on general figures since former president of Mexico, Felipe Calderón assumed the presidency in 2006, there is tangible distress throughout the country. According to the Hispanic Pew Research Center, only 37% of the Mexican population thought that the measures taken by Enrique Peña Nieto in 2013 against the drug war were effective. It seems that the country has been penetrated with corruption, resulting in many citizen’s lives to become nightmares all too real.
How many facets of society can be damaged by the crimes of the few and powerful? It prompts us to ask who truly has influence; the government and the everyday man, or the cartels? Unfortunately it seems that the cartels are taking over the political system. Meanwhile, the music industry remains at a crossroads as banda, norteños, rancheras, and other regional genres suffer from public and corporate criticism. On one hand, the danger and allure of some of these lyrics are very marketable to the public. On the other hand, the Mexican federal government is strongly requesting that various groups stop promoting drug trade through catchy songs distributed my multinational companies, like Televisa and Universal Music.
When I myself hear the songs of those groups, like the very famous Banda el Recodo, La Banda Carnaval, or Los Tigres del Norte, I don’t think about politics or drugs. Although they often compose narco-corridos (songs with themes surrounding drug trafficking) the general audience doesn’t usually look at the damage that they could pose to society. Its influence has far reaching effects when a single, like “La Reina del Sur,” a song performed by Los Tigres del Norte that recounts the adventures of a powerful female drug trafficker that travels throughout the world, involving herself in illegal trade, becomes the inspiration for a telenovela on Telemundo. Pablo Escobar, El Chapo Guzman, infamous figures who have left indelible marks in society, immortalized their crimes through the media.
For me, I've always liked songs that deal with more cheerful and romantic themes, but that's me, and I know we all have our unique tastes. Although I try to stay updated on current events in Latin America, music has always been a way to transport me to a new world without worries or danger. Most Latinos in the U.S. are distanced from the reality of this debate, but it could have great impact on the future of our music and the development of the industry. Whatever the future holds, this genre has rooted itself across borders, so we will see if these events in Mexico will change the content or delivery of banda music and similar genres.
What do you think? Are banda songs becoming too closely associated with crime faced today in Mexico and the U.S., or are the government and others overestimating the effects produced from Regional Mexican Music in our society? Leave your comments below and tell us what you think.