Background Information
By Karen Coates

 

Definition: Corrido - a narrative song, or ballad, whose characters, events and themes are representative of the blues and history of local communities in the United States and Mexico

Corridos are a folk art form situated somewhere between oral history and cultural myth. Influenced by the native American epic traditions, the corrido emerged in the 19th century and is related to the Spanish romance (Spanish verb – to run). In the Mexican culture, corridos serve a similar function to that of the blues in African American culture in passing along oral history. The art form relies on laconic language, turn of phrase, and occasionally satire. Contents are sober, realistic and often tragic.

This tradition spans over 200 years, finding its roots in Spain and the Arab and Judeo-Spanish world. In the beginning, minstrels composed ballads for the feudal higher-ups, and troubadours sang them for the commoners. The songs memoralized actual events of ordinary people with embellishments for dramatic effect. They told stories about local events and local people and reflected local perspectives.

 this tradition spans over 200 years finding its roots in spain and the arab and judeo-spanish world. in the beginning, minstrels composed ballads for the feudal higher-ups and troubadours sang them for the commoners. the songs memorialized actual events of ordinary people with embellishments for dramatic effect. they told stories about local events and local people reflecting local perspectives.




Typically, the only time corridos defied authority was when authorities were denounced for corruption, tyranny, and oppression. These very things are what led to the evolution of the corrido north of the border from the story of the hero to the story of the victim in contemporary settings. During the time of César Chávez and the farm worker movement, corridos relied on the conviction that verse was an instrument of political dissent, and activism. We witnessed a gradual change from the protagonist being the brave worker going to conquer the fields to the worker as the victim protester, abused by the rich landowners. The protagonists were often portrayed as innocent victims whose stories of cruel injustices sent out messages to the people in homes and supported collective action.

Characteristics that define a corrido:

  • Initial call or reason for the corrido
  • The location and date of the event and the name of protagonist (who, what, where, how, when)
  • Explanation of what preceded the arguments of the people involved
  • The message of the corrido
  • The farewell/dismissal of the people involved
  • The ending of the corrido
  • No refrain or chorus

Musical Characteristics
Melodic structures

  • Rhythmic feel – prosody (how words fit into the melody)
  • Mostly 3/4 time; some 2/4 time
  • Basic harmony - three cord harmonic progression
  • Harmonic structure 1-57-4 -57-5 is the most complicated
  • No refrain




Corridos Song

VIDEO
QuickTime: 892k

AUDIO
QuickTime: 116k


THE SONG OF CESAR CHAVEZ
(CORRIDO DE CESAR CHAVEZ)

SONG FOR THE CAUSE
(CORRIDO DE LA CAUSA)