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Rising star rides Mexican music’s wave of success

A fast-rising young Latin music star is helping a Mexican musical genre that has courted controversy by glamorizing drug traffickers to take global charts by storm.

Peso Pluma, who takes his nickname from the Featherweight boxing category, currently has several songs in both Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 US chart and streaming giant Spotify’s global Top 50.

The 23-year-old was recently invited to sing “Ella Baila Sola” (She Dances Alone) — his hit collaboration with the group Eslabon Armado — on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” hosted by Jimmy Fallon.

Peso Pluma is part of a new generation of singer-songwriters of the “corrido” genre that became popular during the Mexican revolution of 1910-1917 to tell an alternative story to the official narrative.

These days it is also known for rap-infused “narcocorrido” ballads about drug traffickers.

Corrido’s success abroad reflects the growing popularity of a broader genre known as regional Mexican that encompasses various subgenres including banda, norteno and mariachi.

Also enjoying Hot 100 chart success, Puerto Rican megastar Bad Bunny has teamed up with Grupo Frontera, a regional Mexican band from the United States, to sing “Un x100to,” a romantic cumbia.

According to Billboard magazine, it is the first time that two regional Mexican songs have simultaneously reached the top five of the Hot 100.

– ‘Sociocultural phenomenon’ –

It is all the most surprising given that Peso Pluma — real name Hassan Emilio Kabande Laija — was unknown to most Mexicans until recently.

He spurns the traditional macho image of cowboy boots and hat, preferring rap and reggaeton style baggy clothes, sneakers and designer caps.

Peso Pluma’s success is not a “fleeting” fashion, but part of a “sociocultural phenomenon,” said Alejandro Grageda, head of collaboration between artists and labels at Spotify Mexico.

Most of his listeners are 20-something members of “Generation Z,” immigrants or first-generation Americans who grew up listening to a mixture of their parents’ traditional music and songs from their new country, Grageda told AFP.

The Latino population in the United States grew from 9.1 million in 1970 to 62.1 million in 2020, according to official figures.

Although corrido has already been made popular by established groups such as “Los Tigres del Norte,” the boom has been fueled by digital platforms, according to music and culture specialist Julian Woodside.

“Peso Pluma’s reach in a digitized global industry is unheard of for a Mexican artist,” he said.

It also reflects the “Latinization of the American entertainment industry,” he said.

“This new Mexican generation that often grew up in the United States has networks, ties and the expertise to develop promotion strategies,” Woodside said.

Grageda at Spotify Mexico sees the potential for “a genre that can become as or more important than reggaeton.”

– Narco culture –

The “narcocorrido” subgenre has been criticized for glorifying…

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