LOS TIGRES DEL NORTE
The Tigres were at first only locally popular, but took off after Jorge and Art Walker heard a Los Angeles mariachi singer perform a song in the early 1971 about a couple of drug runners, Emilio Varela and Camelia la Texana. There had been occasional ballads (corridos, in Mexican terminology) about the cross-border drug trade ever since Prohibition in the 1920s, but never a song as cinematic as this, featuring a woman smuggler who shoots the man and takes off with the money. After getting permission to record this song, Los Tigres del Norte released “Contrabando y traición” (“Contraband and Betrayal”) in 1974. The song quickly hit on both sides of the border, inspired a series of movies, and kicked off one of the most remarkable careers in Spanish-language music.
In norteño form, Los Tigres del Norte have been able to portray “real life” in a manner that strikes a chord with people across the Americas. Many of their most popular songs consist of tales or corridos about life, love, and the struggle to survive in an imperfect world. They regularly touch on the subject of narcotics and illegal immigration, but they have also shared stories of love and betrayal between a man and a woman. Together, the band and its public has turned norteño music into an international genre. The band has modernized the music, infusing it with bolero, cumbia, rock rhythms, and waltzes. They also prominently incorporate a saxophone into some of their songs. As a result, it can be said that they also perform norteño-sax in addition to traditional accordion-led norteño.
Tania Libertad with Los Tigres del Norte on May 17, 2007
On January 9, 2007, Los Tigres del Norte was honored as a BMI Icon at the 14th annual BMI Latin Awards. Los Tigres, who were saluted that evening with an all-star musical tribute, were being honored as BMI Icons for their “unique and indelible influence on generations of music makers.” They joined an elite list that includes such Latin music giants as Juan Luis Guerra and Carlos Santana.