Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) stopped to take a photograph with a narcocorrido (“narcoballad”) singer when he visited the state of Sinaloa on Wednesday. Alfredo Rios, better known professionally as “El Komander”, is famous both in the U.S. and Mexico for his popular ballads that recount Mexico’s brutal drug war. Many of his songs glorify violence and cartel members.
El Komander lives in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa and the stronghold of the Sinaloa Cartel. He has composed songs about the group and some of its former leaders, including the notorious kingpins Ismael “El Mayo” Zamabda and Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. After AMLO left with his entourage, reporters interviewed El Komander. The singer also said he was happy to have met AMLO.
AMLO’s photo with the singer and his family comes after the president faced harsh criticism for taking a picture with El Chapo’s mother during his last visit to Sinaloa, as reported by Borderland Beat.
BackgroundBorn in 1983 in Culiacan, El Komander reached international fame in 2009 for his narcocorridos. Before launching himself as a singer, he worked as a music composer for other narcocorrido singers.
Although the theme of his songs also includes topics such as love, drunkenness, betrayals and friendship, what has kept him at the national and international spotlight are his narcocorridos. His artistic logo is the AK-47 (Spanish: cuerno de chivo) shaped as the letter K.
El Komander was an early proponent of Movimiento Alterado (“Altered Movement”), a commercial brand of narcocorridos that bluntly describe drug violence to the beat of norteño music. Many of these songs are filled with unusually explicit lyrics about torture, decapitation and attacks to security forces. The songs have been banned from airing in radio stations but they are very popular on the Internet.
One of their most popular songs is Los Sanguinarios del M1 (“The Bloodthirsty Ones from M1”), where El Komander is featured with other narcocorrido singers. The song talks about the “bloodthirsty” deeds of the late Sinaloa Cartel enforcer Manuel Torres Felix and his henchmen.
|El Komander’s popular debut El Katch was instrumental in establishing the controversial Movimento Alterado as a serious force in the corrido business.|
Some Movimiento Alterado musicians wear camouflage and bulletproof vests on stage and some have names clearly alluding to the Sinaloa cartel, such as Los Mayitos, referring to Zambada’s nickname, or The Buchones, as the new rich who made their fortunes in drug trafficking are called in Sinaloa. These names can bring danger to the singers.
Back in 2011, Movimiento Alterado singer Gerardo Ortiz was attacked while driving his vehicle. The driver and his representative were killed, as reported by Borderland Beat.
Omar Valenzuela, a narcocorrido singer, once said in an interview that the music not only tells the violent underworld in Mexico, but has received its blessing more than once.
“We [have] looked for [the Sinaloa Cartel] and asked for permission,” Valenzuela said. “We sent them the song and they told us it was OK to release the song. We were afraid. They told us through their people that we were authorized to release any song. Sometimes people can get offended. We didn’t want any problems.”
El Komander has been interviewed before by U.S. media outlets, where he has expressed his paranoia about playing songs in Mexico. On one occasion, a U.S. news magazine had to email the interview questions to El Komander’s music manager, who them asked them over walkie-talkie