LOS TIGRES DEL NORTE
Performing for more than 40 years, Los Tigres del Norte — the San Jose, Calif., band that put the Mexican musical style norteño in the international spotlight — have transitioned from institution to legend. Anchored by dual accordions, acoustic bajo sexto and electric guitar, Los Tigres play boleros, cumbias, rancheras and waltzes. But their mainstay is corridos — lively narrative ballads that give voice to the immigrant experience. Los Tigres del Norte (the Tigers of the North) modernize these traditional story-songs with stark tales of undocumented workers and drug runners, but the band never glamorizes drugs, crime or violence. In fact, this family band refuses to be photographed anywhere near a gun. This doesn’t mean Los Tigres won’t court controversy. Staunch human rights advocates, Los Tigres took part in the 2006 Great American Boycott in downtown L.A., a demonstration that raised awareness of immigrant issues. One of their most famous songs is “Somos Mas Americanos” (We are More American), in which they sing, in Spanish, “I want to remind the gringos: I didn’t cross the border, the border crossed me... They took from us eight states / Who’s the invader? /
I’m a foreigner in my own land / And I didn’t come here to cause you trouble / I’m a hard-working man.” Taking the stage in white spangled suits and tiger-striped instruments, Los Tigres have been known to play for several hours, composing sets from requests sent onstage on scraps of paper. With their populist, keenly observed narratives of struggle and hope, Los Tigres del Norte may be the quintessential American band.