Category Archives: Latin

Bandit Heroes: Roots of Narco Corridos

Bandit Hero Heraclio Bernal

Bandit Hero Heraclio Bernal

Why do we look up to ‘bad guys’?  Or let’s phrase that another way. Why are so called bad guys (outlaws, bandits, dacoits, highwaymen) so attractive to a certain class of people, especially the poor, disenfranchised and shat-upon?

In Mexico there is long tradition of corridos (ballads) being composed about and sung for all sorts of anti-establishmentarian figures like drug dealers, thieves and smugglers.  In modern America and Mexico one of the most popular genres of music is the narcocorrido, a ballad that praises the exploits of the nasty drug kings that have unleashed so much violence all across Mexico and the southwestern American states. A more unappealing group of businessmen is hard to imagine, these guys who think nothing of decapitation and bloodbaths on urban streets. And yet when these narcocorridos are brought to the stage, the house is packed to the rafters.

Sociologists have puzzled over the appeal of the ‘criminal hero’ ever since (at least) Robin Hood did battle in Nottingham against King John.  They say, by singing songs they are vicariously speaking out against the oppressive system. Or, when the level and quality of justice in a society is so unresponsive and unfair, the poor build up songs about these shady (but brave) figures.  Some scholars have, in Mexico’s case, traced the corridos to times when times were so hard that good men were forced into a life of bad activities.  Like those who can identify with the good man Walter White, of the hit TV series Breaking Bad, who does a terrible thing for a noble reason, these songs are sympatico signals of the ‘there but for the Grace of God go I’ sort.

Scholar Chris Frazer in his book Bandit Nation: A History of Outlaws and Cultural Struggle in Mexico 1810-1920 posits that the driver of the creative spirit behind corridos was in fact a concept of masculinity. A man was supposed to be strong and accomplish great things for those whom he protected, the poor.  In exchange for loyal service the patron provided strength and the necessities of life.  Little did it matter if sometimes the patron crossed over the line that the establishment had said must not be crossed.

And since many of these illegal activities, especially murder, were seen by the singers as justifiable acts (retaliation against cruel bosses or grinding injustice from the system) it is often unclear whether the songs are indeed, glorifying bad guys at all. Rather they can be seen as truly heroic songs.  Just depends which side of the table your sitting on.

Tonight’s musical selection is a collection of these 19th and early 20th century corridos that elevated the exploits of drug smugglers, ‘rebel leaders’ and criminals, like Heraclio Bernal one of Mexico’s most infamous folk heroes.  The songs are sung in the simple folk style with guitar, accordion and every once in awhile a Mexicali trumpet.  The harmonies are sweet and melodies too.  But the songs are filled with references to robbery, marijuana, cocaine, tequila smuggling and death.  There is something weirdly charming hearing a group of elderly women singing fondly of such things!

A fun collection this is.  Take it as proto-gangster rap or genuine songs of the oppressed. Whatever suits your fancy.  As for me, I hear a bit of both.

Roots of Narcocorrido

Track Listing:

01 Corrido de Heraclio Bernal (The Ballad of Heraclio Bernal

02 Mariano Reséndez – Timoteo Cantu

03 Nieves Hernández

04 Corrido de Mier (Ballad of Mier)

05 Tequileros (The Tequileros) – Timoteo Cantu

06 Contrabando de El Paso, Pt. 1 (Contraband of El Paso, Pt. 1) – Leonardo Sifuentes

07 Contrabando de El Paso, Pt. 2 (Contraband of El Paso, Pt. 2) – Leonardo Sifuentes

08 Cocaína (Cocaine)

09 Marihuana (Marijuana)

10 Corrido de Juan García (The Ballad of Juan García)

11 García y Zamarripa

12 Pateros (The River Bandits)

13 Corrido del Hampa, Pt. 1 (Ballad of the Underworld, Pt. 2

14 Corrido del Hampa, Pt. 2 (Ballad of the Underworld, Pt. 2)

15 Canela (Ballad of the Cinnamon)

16 Por Morfina y Cocaína, Pt. 1 (Because of Morphine & Cocaine, Pt. 1)

17 Por Morfina y Cocaína, Pt. 2 (Because of Morphine & Cocaine, Pt. 2) Juan Gonzalez

18 Contrabandista, Pt. 1 (The Contraband Trafficker, Pt. 1)

19 Contrabandista, Pt. 2 (The Contraband Trafficker, Pt. 2)

20 Carga Blanca (White Cargo)

21 Profugo (The Fugitive, Marijuana)

22 Corrido de Juan Meneses (The Ballad of Juan Meneses)

23 Francisco Martínez

24 Tragedia de los Cargadores (Tragedy of the Drug Couriers)

25 Cadena (The Chain Gang)

26 Rey de Pipa Roja (The King of the Road 18-Wheel Tanker)


Happy Anniversary Part 6: Jazz and Related Sounds


And so we now come to a tri-partite celebration of jazz sounds as part of the ongoing commemoration of the Washerman’s Dog achieving the milestone of 700 posts (way back a couple of months ago). Thank you again to all visitors, regulars and encouragers along the way, its been a blast and I don’t’ see any reason to cease and desist any time soon.


Volume one is entitled Blue Vindaloo. Straight ahead jazz mixed with a fair number of Asian and Asian-inspired tracks by jazz artists from Afghanistan to Japan. Check out the Afghan Jazz Unit’s tremendous Spinboldak Saxophony.

Title track from the Pakistani-American uber guitarist Rez Abbasi.


Volume two is titled Afro Jazz and indeed here you will find much jazz from the Continent, as well as soukous, pop and other African delights.  Highlights this time are from Angola!  Title track comes via the mighty Madilu of DRC.


Volume three, Blow Baby, Blow is dedicated to outstanding brass, woodwind and brass band jazz. Sax, trumpet, tuba and trombone. Greats and unknowns.  Hope you enjoy.

blue vindaloo

Track Listing (Vol. 1):

01 Time Is Right Dr. L Subramaniam]

02 Beauty Of The Flower [Christoph Stiefel and Lissette Spinnler]

03 Elveen [Wynton Marsalis]

04 Spinboldak Saxophony [Afghan Jazz Unit]

05 Ranglypso [Ernest Ranglin]

06 Painted Paradise [Jiro Inagaki and Soul Media]

07 Fat Mouth [Weldon Irvine]

08 Yes, Sir That’s My Baby [Nat King Cole]

09 Abbaji (For Alla Rakha) [John McLaughlin]

10 Hub-Tones [Freddie Hubbard]

11 Eastern Dawn [Amancio D’Souza]

12 Sueño de Amor (Chachachá) [feat. Cachao] [Bonus Track] Generoso Jimenez]

13 Fried Pies (Take 1) [Wes Montgomery]

14 Tempo De Amor [Baden Powell and Vinicius de Moraes]

15 What a Little Moonlight Can Do [Billie Holiday]

16 Harlem On Saturday Night [Lil Hardin Armstrong and Her Orchestra]

17 Benson’s Rider [George Benson]

18 The Best Is Yet To Come [Mr. President]

19 Nuit sur les Champs-Elysees(1) [Miles Davis]

20 Awaara Hoon [Sunny Jain Collective]

21 Sina Nari [Hüsnü Şenlendirici]

22 Tanzania [Sadao Watanabe]

23 Summertime [Ahmed Abdul Malik]

24 Garuda [Raga Bop Trio]

25 The Look Of Love [Sergio Mendes & Brasil 66]

26 Quaze Caindo [Ricardo Herz Trio]

27 The Lewinsky March. [Rabih Abou-Khalil]

28 Ma’am A’rif Leh (Gingele) [Salma]

29 Blu Vindaloo [Rez Abbasi]

30 Raga Piloo [Joe Harriot & John Mayer]


beau souvenir

Track Listing (Vol. 2)

01 Johannesburg Hi-Lite Jive [Hugh Masakela]

02 Margret Odero [D.O. Misiani & Shirati Jazz]

03 Muasi Oweli Bela [bolero] [Vicky et l’OK Jazz]

04 Bolingo Ekomisi Ngai Liboma [L’orchestre Zembe Zembe]

05 Kulekule [Konono No.1 De Mingiedi]

06 La Bycicletta [Keletigui et Ses Tambourines]

07 Avante Juventude [Os Anjos]

08 Whiskey et Coca-Cola [Amadou Balake]

09 Black Egypt -Intro [Bukky Leo and Black Egypt]

10 Soweto Blues [Mariam Makeba]

11 Awa Awa [Wes]

12 Koki (Hot Koki) [Andre Marie Tala]

13 Tweta [Mombasa Party and Zuhura Swaleh]

14 Injuria [Jose ‘Zeca’ Neves]

15 Hymn for the War Orphans [Zimology]

16 Na boyi danbinzi [Orchestre Mando Negro]

17 Onyame [Ashanti Afrika Jah]

18 Sogodounou [Nahawa Doumbia]

19 1er Gaou (Ivory Coast) [Magic System]

20 Kyrie eleison [Orcestre Hi Fives]

21 Ting’ Badi Malo [Gidigidi Majimaji]

22 Din Ya Sugri [Christy Azuma & Uppers International]

23 Gidelam [Baaba Maal]

24 Tollon Tollon [Afro National]

25 Ichibanda [Oliya Band]

26 Revolution [Sonny Okosun]

27 Mosquito [Flaming Souls]

28 Beau Souvenir [Madilu System]

29 Black Woman Experience [Geraldo Pino]

30 Despedida [Dimba Diangola]


Blow Baby Blow

Track Listing: (Vol. 3)

01 Blue Light [Ben Webster]

02 Black Man’s Cry [Fela Kuti with Afrika 70 and Ginger Baker]

03 Zomaye [Gigi]

04 Minnie the Moocher [Big Bad Voodoo Daddy]

05 Skalloween [Skatalites]

06 From Boogie to Funk part 1_ The Blues [Bill Coleman]

07 Don’t Take Your Love From Me [Frank Rosolino Quintet]

08 See-F [Ceasar Frazier]

09 Instant Groove [King Curtis]

10 Time Is Running Out Fast [James Brown]

11 Satan’s Blues [Don Bryon]

12 i want a little girl [Big Joe Turner]

13 John McLaughlin [Miles Davis]

14 Misterioso [Sonny Rollins]

15 Sida Gangbe Brass Band]

16 The Lonely Bull (El Solo Toro) [Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass]

17 Balkan Reggae [Mahala Rai Banda]

18 Qonqoza [Dudu Phukwana]

19 Got No Money [Dusko Gojkovic]

20 Crazy Mixed Up World [Little Walter]

21 Ad Lib Blues [Lester Young]

22 Need You (right now) [Trumpet Thing]

23 Kuenda Namwendo [The Umtali Chipisa Band]

24 Blues for Harvey [Johnny Griffin]

25 Celestial Bliss [Rahsaan Roland Kirk]

26 Frantic Activity [Rhythm Funk Masters]

27 Struttin’ With Some Barbecue [Louis Armstrong]

28 Asaw Fofor [Melody Aces]

29 African Battle Manu Dibango]

30 How Deep Is the Ocean [John Coltrane]


Funky [Manila] Mambo: Joe Bataan




I arrived in Manila this afternoon for a week of Typhoon Haiyan related work.  It’s nice to be back in the Philippines which has its very own unique character compared to its many other SE Asian neighbors.


To mark the occasion, let’s listen to a bit of Joe Bataan. The father of Latin Soul and an early experimenter in what became known as disco, Joe Bataan was born of African-American and Filipino parents and grew up in Spanish Harlem where he ran with Puerto Rican gangs and absorbed R&B, Afro-Cuban, and Afro-Rican musical influences. His music career followed a pair of stints in Coxsackie State Prison. Self-taught on the piano, he organized his first band in 1965 and scored his first recording success in 1967 with “Gypsy Woman” on Fania Records. The tune was a hit with the New York Latin market despite its English lyrics sung by Bataan, and exemplified the nascent Latin soul sound. In early anticipation of the disco formula, “Gypsy Woman” created dance energy by alternating what was fundamentally a pop-soul tune with a break featuring double-timed handclaps. Bataan would take this tendency even further on his influential Salsoul, which fused funk and Latin influences in slick yet soulful orchestrations. Salsoul remains influential as a rare groove cult item, and pointed to the future at the time of its release. The LP embodied the artist’s highly deliberate and culturally aware musical concept. Bataan theorized the ’70s next big thing as a hybrid: an Afro Cuban rhythm section playing Brazilian influenced patterns over orchestral funk. In many ways, his vision was on the money, though most of the money would go to others and mainstream stardom would elude him. He did, however, get in on the ground floor of the new trend as an early hitmaker. His biggest commercial move was a Salsoul production released under the Epic umbrella, and promoted to the new disco market as Afrofilipino, which included Gil Scott-Heron’s  “The Bottle,” a much-anthologized classic that drives an R&B horn arrangement with a relentless piano montuno.

Always in touch with the street, Joe Bataan picked up on rap very early in the game. His minor rap hit, “Rap-O, Clap-O” was a bit more successful in Europe than in the States, and is remembered as rap’s debut in the European market. Nevertheless, his legacy remains his gritty and realistic Latin soul lyrics, his self-identification as an “Ordinary Guy”, and his highly personal and prophetic merger of Latin and soul influences. (AMG)

And so Afrofilipino it is…all the way from the heart of Spanish Harlem, via Manila!


Track Listing:

01 Chico And The Man (Main Theme)

02 La Botella (The Bottle)

03 X-Rated Symphony

04 Laughing And Crying

05 Hey, Girl

06 When You’re Down (Funky Mambo)

07 Women Don’t Want To Love Me

08 Ordinary Guy (Afrofilipino)

09 What Good Is A Castle (Pt 1)

10 What Good Is A Castle (Pt 2)