Los Tigres del Norte

15 03 2012

Los Tigres del Norte have been on our radar since 1990 when we got in the LP  ‘Para Adoloridos’ (uh, ‘For Shaking You Up’?).   These Californians are in the news this week as Juarez, the capital of Chihuahua State and a major city for drug trafficking and violence, has banned them from appearing.  The reason is their penning and performing so many ‘Narco Corridos’ – songs that offer a backhand glorification of the drugs trade.  As early as the 1970s this long-lived band were facing calls for censorship with the release of ‘Contrabando y Traición’ (1972, ‘Smuggling and Betrayal’) and ‘La Banda del Carro Rojo.’

Corridos are story-songs chronicling outlaws, rebels, lovers, losers, heroes and villains, with roots in medieval Spain, new world Amerindian culture, and revolutionary fervor.  Only natural that one branch of these epic song cycles would touch on the latest wave of real hoods and Robin Hoods.

To get an idea of the genre have a look at the youtube video mix for ‘Corridos Prohibidos‘ (CD on the Fonovisa, USA label).  Along with a rogues gallery that acts as a warning label, there are beautiful prancing, dancing horses and a catalog of automatic weaponry, some firing so fast and so hot, the barrels catch fire.  Like Hollywood and Telemundo, the band likes to please their audience.

But little known is Los Tigres’ sterling academic contribution to popular music scholarship.  One of the best sites on the Internet is Frontera.  It is the brainchild of musicologist and Arhoolie label pioneer, Chris Stachwitz.  Chris has taken his exhaustive collection of Mexican and Mexican-American 78s and posted the history and music for us to enjoy with the help of UCLA.  And who paid for a great deal of this?  The Los Tigres del Norte Foundation.

Numerous articles about the band and the genre abound, and I would recommend Elijah Wald’s ‘Narcocorrido’  (Rayo, USA, 0066210240, hardcover, 333p. 2001 –  Rayo is a division of Harper Collins + this is our version, but also avail. in paperback)  and Américo Paredes; ‘With a Pistol in his Hand’  (University of Texas Press, USA, 978-0-292-70128-1, paper, 275 pp.,1958).


Caramoor + Sardines

25 07 2011

It’s amazing to me that more people in the city do not know about the great house, great gardens and great concerts at Caramoor   in upstate New York.  Caramoor has had a remarkable history of presenting the arts, the legacy of the Rosen family, who’s Grand Dame, Lucie, was the unlikely champion of Léon Theremin. That master of the proximity switch is invoked from first contact, all the gates swinging open automatically as you enter the grounds.

                                                                                           Photo:Gabe Palacio

Last Saturday’s offering was a concert by Malian singer and composer Oumou Sangaré.  The night was hot, the music sultry, and a pretty decent crowd for one of the great voices of West Africa.  Older, white and rhythmically deprived it was a typical Westchester crowd.  But their heart was in it and they all wanted to be there.

I’ve seen Sangare five times in four different countries, and as always she was a delight.  I’ve seen her with three backup singers, but tonight there was a recession to one, dynamic enough for three, Dandio Sidibi.  I’ve heard her original guitarist Boubacar Diallo, the role now assumed by Mamadou Diakite, who could rock, but shown brightest on the acoustic guitar. The kamalengoni, (or n’goni, a six stringed harp-lute described in the program notes as a person) once the driving force of much of the music from the Wassoulou region, was buried here.

A nice trick to get folks outa their seats was asking them to stand for “Wele Wele Wintou,” a song against forced marriages.  Once up wiggles ensued.  Sangaré often addresses social issues, along with the more typical, traditional praise and advice repertoire.  It wasn’t until a closing number that three African clad African women took the stage to ‘spray’ the singer with money, flinging bill after bill at her, the expected audience response throughout West Africa when a kind word is thrown their way.

So… please, get up offa that thing and plan a trip to Caramoor this summer for some music or a picnic. It’s just about an hour upstate by train or car, in Katonah.  An upcoming winner is the Jazz weekend   (Aug 5,6,7) featuring the likes of Juan Carlos Formell, the Christian McBride Big Band, Fred Hersch and John Scofield.

Driving back to the city on Sunday meant a visit to a Japanese street fair in Astoria and the object of my affection, grilled sardines.  I had always heard that summer brought out mounds of the small black salted stinkers and people who love them in this part of town.  So an invite to join a few other archivists and Spaniards at Casa Galicia – a Community Center with an imposing façade – could not be ignored.  And at 6 for $5 you know you’re not in posing Manhattan anymore.

It was family style seating plus wine, sardines, torta (potato pie), hearty beige bread, pulpo (octopus), Spanish empanadas (baked, flat, stuffed with either fish or chicken), and calamares fritos.  I also had an excellent Spanish beer, Estrella Galicia, from the North-West and noticed a sign offering cerveza nacional.  Asking, it turned out it was OUR beer national; Budweiser.

Unbelievably wonderful food, polished off by some Turkish coffee and sweets, made for another great day on the road.  You can learn a lot by taking a little fieldtrip now and then.

Speaking of fieldtrips: Tuesday evening, beginning at 5:30, Forro in the Dark plays outside for free @ the City Winery.  See you there.

AND – a reader has pointed out that Sangaré is performing Friday night at Celebrate Brooklyn, @ the Prospect Park Bandshell, on the bill with our pal Bassam Saba.  Is that out of town also?

Sangaré recordings @ ARC.

• Ko Sira  (World Circuit, UK, WCD 036, 5″, compact disc, 1993)

• Ko Sira  (World Circuit / Nonesuch, USA, 79576-2 , 5″, compact disc, 1993)

• Moussolou  (World Circuit, UK, WCD 021, 5″, compact disc, 1991)

• Moussolou  (World Circuit / Nonesuch, USA, 79575-2, 5″, compact disc, 1999)

• OUmou  (World Circuit / Nonesuch, USA, 79827-2, 5″, compact disc, 2004)

• OUmou  (World Circuit / Nonesuch, USA, PRCD 301363, 5″, compact disc-2CD, 2004)

• Seya  (World Circuit / Nonesuch, USA, 519650-2, 5″, compact disc, 2009)

• Worotan  (World Circuit / Nonesuch, USA, 79470-2, 5″, compact disc, 1996)

• Worotan  (World Circuit, UK, WCD 045, 5″, compact disc, 1996)

Graffiti Artists

2 11 2007


This is from Barcelona, where I’m not exactly sure they are referencing the band, but, hey, maybe…

So lets see some other graffiti from bands around the world!

We would love to publish your photos on our webthing, or, just see if there are any more out there!

B. = Barcelona

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