LAWRENCE — When a city official in Cancun imposed a ban hours before a May 19 concert by pop musicians associated with the narcocorrido, or drug ballad, accusing them of fomenting violence, the ensuing headlines may have brought the genre to the attention of many Americans for the first time.
But it probably won’t be the last time, especially with Mexico’s top young singer-songwriter, Peso Pluma (Featherweight), mashing up regional music styles, narcocorridos and rap and topping the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States this summer.
A University of Kansas expert is available to comment on the appeal of the drug ballad in a country that has seen so much bloodshed on all sides of the drug trade.
Rafael Acosta Morales, associate professor in KU’s Department of Spanish & Portuguese and author of the 2021 book “Drug Lords, Cowboys and Desperadoes: Violent Myths of the U.S.-Mexico Frontier,” said Americans must put themselves in the place of the average Mexican to understand the narcocorrido’s appeal.
“Once you frame it in a different context, it becomes easier to understand why people relate to it,” he said. “Some people watch ‘Top Gun: Maverick,’ a movie that blatantly promotes bombing countries just because, and no one thinks anything of it. A lot of people look up to those who make money in the drug trade in the same way others look up to famous billionaire business tycoons, even if they are unethical. They fit the description of success, and people want to see films and read books and hear songs about how to become one of them.”
Acosta noted that in Mexico, there has already been backlash against the ban imposed on concerts by El Komander, Alemán, El Millonario and Grupo Firme, and the Cancun political leader who led the charge has been forced to step down from his position.
The KU scholar is working on two research papers about current Mexican popular music, and he is available to reporters to comment on any aspect of narcocorridos.