YouTube and the Corrido

[Home] [Elijah Wald bio] [Robert Johnson] [Josh White] [Narcocorrido] [Dave Van Ronk]
[Music and albums] [Books and writing] [Blues CDs] [Joseph Spence DVD]

This page is a brief introduction to some of the styles of corridos that have been appearing on YouTube. If you don't know what a corrido is, you might want to check out the page about my book, Narcocorrido: A Journey Into the Music of Drugs, Guns and Guerrillas. The book is an investigation into the world of these contemporary Mexican ballads, based on visits with most of the top composers in the style, as well as some less well known corridistas both of the drug world and of politics and local events.


Since 2006, there has been a dramatic rebirth of the old-fashioned news corrido, thanks to the internet site YouTube. Corridos have often been described as a sort of musical newspaper, like the British and Anglo-American "broadside ballads," which used to be rushed out after any exciting event as a way of spreading the word about what had happened, and commemorating the heroes or villains. The golden age of the Mexican corridos, in may people's minds, was the Revolution (1910-1920), during which virtually every battle and general was commemorated in lyrical form.

This tradition has continued through the years. There is an amazing five-volume set by a Mexican scholar named Antonio Avitia, which traces Mexican history through corridos, and shows that the form has functioned as a sort of working class alternative to the histories written for the literate classes. For the last thirty years, though, the other kinds of corridos have been overshadowed by what have come to be known as "narcocorridos," or drug ballads. The name is a bit misleading, since only a tiny proportion of these songs mention any drugs. What they are is outlaw ballads, but the vast majority of the outlaws are connected with the business of trafficking illegal drugs from Mexico and other countries into the United States. 

One of the reasons the narcocorridos have so overshadowed the corridos of more general news events is that since the arrival of the CD it has become harder to get a song on the market quickly. In earlier eras, when songs were recorded on 45 r.p.m. singles, a corrido producer in San Antonio, Los Angeles, or Monterrey could hear about an event on the radio, write a lyric about it, have a group record it that same day, rush the recording to a local pressing plant, and have records on the radio and in local stores within 24 hours. With CDs, the turn-around time was closer to a month or two, by which time most news events were no longer of interest to the record-buying public.

YouTube has changed that situation dramatically. Now, anyone with a computer can get a corrido onto the internet, complete with photographs or even film clips, and there are literally hundreds of corrido videos being posted every month. Obviously, this page cannot give anything like a comprehensive guide to what is up there, but I wanted to provide links to a sample of videos that will give some sense of the range of material that is turning up. I have made no attempt to select the most impressive or unusual videos, but just to include a broad sample of songs that people can use as a sort of beginner's map to this surprising new development in a lyrical tradition that reaches back to the days of the first minstrels.

Traditional styles:includ

These are songs performed in styles that do not surface much in commercial recordings.

Los Hermanos Garcia, a trio of Huichol Indians from Nayarit, performing the most famous early narcocorrido, "Carga Blanca." This song was written in the 1940s, and first recorded by Los Alegres de Terán, one of the defining duos in norteño music. This performance is by a trio in an older regional style, with guitar, bass and violin.

Corrido de la Mamá (Corrido de Rosa Morales) and Corrido de Armando Montes. These are charming examples of a kind of corrido that has been quite common but very rarely recorded. A norteño trio sings two corridos written on the spot for people attentding a family party.

Corrido de Antonio González is an a cappella performance by a young man who has written a corrido for his father. The singer, Armando González, clearly thinks of himself as a potential professional, since he has posted several videos of his corridos, each with an opening title giving his name and his nickname, "El Alikan."

including cds by Edward Masengo