North Of The Border - The Rise Of Mexican Music

Robin Denselow visits L.A., the commercial centre of the narco-corrido, or Mexican drug ballad. The lyrics celebrate the exploits of smugglers and cartels. But bizarrely it sounds like cheerful, almost comical, accordion polka.

As the Mexican drug war has spiralled out of control it has reinvigorated the music with alarming consequences for some musicians: numerous singers have been killed in unsolved cases since 2006.

The style is a legacy of German miner immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. Despite it's rather quaint sound, the links with drug cartels are close. Often the first thing a trafficker does, following a successful deal, is to contract somebody to write a song about his exploit.

The music is generally not played on Spanish language radio stations in Mexico. But in the United States there's a strangely ambivalent response in the Mexican community who often appreciate the beat from home, even if they don't like the hyper violent lyrics.

What is the enduring appeal of this music? And what does it say about the Mexican migrant community? The programme visits Los Angeles - the de facto capital of Mexican music - to find out.

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Robin Denselow visits L.A., the commercial centre of the narcocorrido, or Mexican drug ballad. The lyrics celebrate the exploits of smugglers and cartels. But bizarrely it sounds like cheerful, almost comical, accordion polka.

As the Mexican drug war has spiralled out of control it has reinvigorated the music with alarming consequences for some musicians: numerous singers have been killed in unsolved cases since 2006.

The style is a legacy of German miner immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. Despite it's rather quaint sound, the links with drug cartels are close. Often the first thing a trafficker does, following a successful deal, is to contract somebody to write a song about his exploit.

The music is generally not played on Spanish language radio stations in Mexico. But in the United States there's a strangely ambivalent response in the Mexican community who often appreciate the beat from home, even if they don't like the hyper violent lyrics.

What is the enduring appeal of this music? And what does it say about the Mexican migrant community? The programme visits Los Angeles - the de facto capital of Mexican music - to find out.

Producer: Chris Elcombe

A Somethin Else production for BBC Radio 4.

Robin Denselow examines the growing influence of the Mexican drug ballad, or narcocorrido.

20120329

Robin Denselow visits L.A., the commercial centre of the narco-corrido, or Mexican drug ballad. The lyrics celebrate the exploits of smugglers and cartels. But bizarrely it sounds like cheerful, almost comical, accordion polka.

As the Mexican drug war has spiralled out of control it has reinvigorated the music with alarming consequences for some musicians: numerous singers have been killed in unsolved cases since 2006.

The style is a legacy of German miner immigrants at the turn of the 20th century. Despite it's rather quaint sound, the links with drug cartels are close. Often the first thing a trafficker does, following a successful deal, is to contract somebody to write a song about his exploit.

The music is generally not played on Spanish language radio stations in Mexico. But in the United States there's a strangely ambivalent response in the Mexican community who often appreciate the beat from home, even if they don't like the hyper violent lyrics.

What is the enduring appeal of this music? And what does it say about the Mexican migrant community? The programme visits Los Angeles - the de facto capital of Mexican music - to find out.