While a man holds a bazooka on stage, dozens of people in El Paso, Texas sing the chorus:
“With an AK-47 and a bazooka on my shoulder / Cross my path and I’ll chop your head off / We’re bloodthirsty, crazy, and we like to kill!”
These explicit lyrics belong to musical group BuKnas de Culican, a major recording artists on the Los Angeles-based record label TWIINS Culican, and they are an example of the increasingly popular genre of songs glorifying Mexican drug cartels.
Check it out in the clip below from forthcoming documentary “Narco Cultura” by Shaul Schwarz:
The members of BuKnas de Culican grew up in the States and have had little experience of life in Mexico. However, their music is written in homage to the lives of members of Mexico's notoriously violent drug cartels -- the "narcos" who dominate life in places like Juárez, just over the border from Texas. The songs they perform are known as "narcocorridos," an update on traditional corridos to reflect the modern Mexican lifestyle (you may recognise the style from "Breaking Bad," even if you know little about Mexican cartels). The song above specifically mentions the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, the notorious "el Chapo," and alleged drug trafficker Manuel Torres Félix, who was killed in a clash with the Mexican army last year. Narcocorridos are slowly becoming more popular in the U.S., and Schwarz's film follows BuKnas de Culican as they tour the countries, eventually making their way to Mexico where they meet some of the narcos they idolize and who seem to idolize them back. For contrast, the film also follows CSI investigator Riccardo Soto, a native of Juarez, who carries on working even as a number of his colleagues are assasinated by cartels. Glamorizing criminality in music is far from new, of course -- outlaw country and gangster rap are two obvious homegrown examples -- and there are plenty of decent arguments that such music can be simple escapism for most listeners. Schwarz isn't necessarily criticising narco culture and its spread in the U.S. with his documentary, but it's hard not to feel uncomfortable after seeing the contrast between the Mexican-Americans who sing songs in honour of the narcos, and the Mexican police officers who clean up the bodies they leave behind, in a drug war that is believed to have left 60,000 people dead in just six years. "Narco Cultura" was featured at the 2013 Sundance and Berlin film festivals and will open in New York on Friday, November 22 at the AMC Empire 25 and in Miami. A national rollout will follow.
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