I’m not talking about gangster rap music or other urban genres that are misogynistic but music that glorifies real crime and the criminals.
Aldo Gionta, a fugitive clan boss who fancies himself as a poet and who was recently arrested trying to get to Malta on false travel documents was known as the “Poet Boss”. Whilst on the run he penned a number of lyrics using Neapolitan dialect and romanticising the Camorra which thrives on drug trafficking, illegal industrial waste disposal, racketeering, prostitution and construction.
These neomelodici songs are performed by well-known Naples singers like Tony Marciano (himself later arrested on drug charges). He had a hit with “Nun Ciamm Arennere” (We must not surrender) which criticised turncoats who betrayed their fellow mobsters. Other songs such as “O Killer” (the Killer), “O Zio” (The Uncle, a euphemism for a mafia boss) and “Femmena d”Onore” (Woman of honour, about a woman who vows vengeance on an informer) give you a flavour of the genre.
The songs are popular with both the syndicate bosses and the foot-soldiers and attracted the interest of police and prosecutors who have arrested singers and producers on criminal charges. The singers typically are very tanned with slicked back hair and wearing ostentatious jewellery who sing in overdramatic style.
One of the first hits was “Nu Latitante“, which means “a fugitive”, and is an ode to life on the run and which was released in 1993 with a video of a criminal fleeing the police on a motorbike through the back streets of Naples.
Another singer Lisa Castaldi sang “My friend the Camorrista” describing a crime boss as a man full of good qualities; Nello Liberti sang “O Capocian” (The Boss) saying that he should be respected even when ordering a killing. And the Camorra have been responsible for a lot of killing, thousands it is claimed. Prosecutors tried but failed to convict the author on charges of inciting violence.
Investigators say the singers and the criminals come from the same crime-ridden districts of Naples and the songs idealise and romanticise their criminal exploits.
The neomelodici industry is worth over £200 million a year and is controlled entirely by the Camorra. Clan members write songs for singers to perform (hard to say no I’m guessing and one mobster sued a singer over copyright because he wasn’t credited for the lyrics). They also pay hefty fees to have singers perform at birthdays, weddings and christenings (reminds me of the Godfather film).
This is a sub-genre of the Mexican norteño-corrido, a traditional folk music from northern Mexico and is heard on both sides of the US–Mexican border and uses a danceable, accordion-based polka as a rhythmic base.
The first corridos that focussed on drug smugglers have been dated to the 1930s although early corridos (non-narco) go back as far to the Mexican Revolution of 1910, telling the stories of revolutionary fighters.
Narcocorrido lyrics refer to particular events and include real dates and places. The lyrics tend to speak approvingly of illegal activities such as murder, torture, racketeering, extortion, drug smuggling, illegal immigration, and sometimes political protest due to government corruption.
Former President of Mexico Vicente Fox proposed banning narcocorridos but former Mexican foreign secretary Jorge Castaneda has argued that “corridos are attempts by Mexican society to come to terms with the world around them…You cannot blame narcocorridos for drug violence. Drug violence is to blame for narcocorridos“.