I did a short post about Los Tigres Del Norte over two years ago, but since then, drug smuggling in Mexico has since slipped into epic proportions; therefore, I thought I’d do another.
I summed up Los Tigres pretty well in my last post – I wrote about how Norteño music and corridos formed the sound-tract to the social problems and successes of the Mexican people. But it was the number Contrabando y Traicion (contraband and betrayal) that had catapulted not only the band, but the whole Norteño genre to massive success in the early 70’s. A lot earlier than I had previously indicated.
The gritty tune Contrabando y Traicion is a song about a couple who smuggles drugs across the US/Mexican border. Lyrically, it is a cover of an older corrido, which is kind of like a country ballad which can have a parable of some sort at the ending. As the story goes, Emilio Varela and Camelia the Texan smuggle marijuana in their tires from Tijuana, Mexico to Hollywood, California. But as Emilio wants to leave the business and follow a more sobering life in San Francisco, he is murdered by his female partner.
Ballads about anti-heroes, drug dealers, immigrants, and the modern ills of society were nothing new at the time. The Mexican corrido is a musical tradition that lasted over 100 years. The only difference was the approach Los Tigres Del Norte had taken musically to the genre. The combination of instruments, the use of the accordion, the loud/heavy use of the electric bass, and the nasal singing style were the subtle differences that modernized the corrido sound into what is now called Norteño. These guys popularized this sound, an approach which was copied by nearly all of Los Tigres’ contemporaries of the time.
Now the story of Contrabando y Traicion may very well be an exaggeration of some sort, but one can almost see this song as a lament to the trails and tribulations of the Mexican immigrant, a reflection for some, of how much bullshit one has to go through just to cross a border. On a side note, a few movies in the 80’s were made about this ballad. Probably one of my favorite songs of this entire genre. Please enjoy!