A number of factors contributed to Chalino Sánchez’s rapid ascension to power. His distinctive and unpolished singing style immediately set him apart from other ranchera balladeers. In spite of this, he was able to rise to the position of “El Rey del Corrido” because he happened to be in the right place at the right moment.
The 1980s were a time of rapid expansion for the drug trade and of coming of age for the Sinaloan vocalist known for “Nieves de Enero.” Around the same period, a large number of people fled the violence in Mexico by crossing into the United States.
Sánchez was another foreign-born resident of Inglewood, CA who sold cassettes from the trunk of his car to support his family. Narcocorridos, a musical genre that some say romanticizes drug crime, were the ones he sang, and their narratives reflected a way of life that resonated with many people on both sides of the border.
Erick Galindo, a songwriter and producer based in Los Angeles, says, “His music expressed a lot of the stuff that was happening in our life.” In addition, he has an eight-part podcast called Idolo: The Ballad of Chalino Sánchez.
The subjects he sang about had an effect on both Mexico and the United States. There were public figures who became household names, like Pablo Escobar. He was singing about antiheroes, the villains who fascinate all of us. His music resonated with listeners on both sides of the Atlantic because of this.
It has been 30 years since the murder of Chalino Sánchez in Mexico. At the age of 31, when he was murdered, he had just signed a deal with Cintas Acuario, a regional Mexican indie label founded by Pedro Rivera and home to his children Lupillo and Jenni Rivera.
His songs are still being broadcast on Spanish-language radio and are streamed by millions of fans today. His legacy lives on in the form of tribute concerts and podcasts celebrating his life and music, which have become anthems in Latino homes across generations thanks to songs like “Alma Enamorada,” “Prenda del Alma,” and “Los Chismes.”
Even Snoop Dogg has sampled his music. Because of the importance of music in both the American and Mexican cultures, Chalino was able to achieve widespread success in both countries. His wife, Marisela, has said that his music always reflected a deep sense of national pride on his part.
They Were Treated Like Gods
Sánchez catered to a specific neighborhood when no one else was doing it, much like gangster rap idols like 2Pac and Biggie. Galindo explains, “He seemed very real, unlike a lot of the other people like Cantinflas, Don Francisco, or Gloria Estefan, and he was doing it in their language.”
They were treated like gods, with the exception of Chalino. From humble beginnings, this local lad had risen to prominence. A misfit who forged his own path, he stood out from the crowd. That was crucially important to us.
He wasn’t the best singer, but his fans appreciated the honesty in his performances and songwriting. His unusual voice will also be part of his legacy.
“A lot of the younger generation sings like that,” Galindo explains. “Their singing voice isn’t particularly pretty, but it’s genuine and engaging. He pioneered a style of music where even those without a particularly stunning singing voice could participate.
Lili Zetina, a corridos singer, vividly recalls the first time she heard Sánchez’s unique voice. She recalls, “When I was maybe eight years old, I heard my neighbor sobbing along to a song by Chalino. I understood that he was sad because his hero, Chalino, had been killed. Since then, I have never been able to forget the sound of my neighbor’s loud voice.
Zetina is only one of many young musicians who have been influenced by Sánchez; on July 22nd, a tribute event will be held at the YouTube Theater in Los Angeles, featuring performances by many of these musicians. Tito Torbellino Jr., Jes Ojeda Y Sus Parientes, El Coyote, and Arley Perez will all be performing at the event, which is being put on by Que Buena and Estrella Media.
The “sincere and special method” in which he interprets each of his corridos has allowed Chalino’s music to “cross boundaries, genres, and generations” over the years, as stated on TheActiveNews.Com.