The drums of war: A genre of Latin music glorifies the Mexican-U.S. drug war

Jim Avila, Richard Coolidge and Jordyn Phelps
Power Players

Power Players

Much like rap music in the 90’s served to glorify the gangster life, a similar phenomenon has occurred with an increasingly popular genre of Latin music, known as narcocorridos, that celebrates drug traffickers.

A new documentary “Narco Cultura” captures the narcocorridos music scene and juxtaposes it with the grim realities of the raging drug war along the U.S.-Mexican border.

“What has happened in narcocorridos, particularly north of the border, is a huge increase in popularity as well as a trend of the songs getting way more violent and more graphic and usually choosing sides, meaning taking on a cartel,” filmmaker Shaul Schwarz told “Power Players.”

The film follows some of the most popular narcocorridos artists as they tour clubs in the U.S. and pack in audiences who sing along with the ballads that brag about killing and kidnapping.

“There are literally hundreds if not thousands of clubs throughout the country that celebrate this kind of scene during the weekend,” Schwarz said.

“What's strange about this reality is they are there to play 'narco' for a night,” he said. “They see a failed ongoing war, and they see the heads of these cartels not being punished and … they become this sort of Robin Hood figure.”

In making the film, Schwarz said he and his team made many trips back-and-forth between the U.S. and Mexico in an effort to capture the contrast between the narcocorridos music being glorified in the U.S. and the hard realities of the drug war south of the border.

“We'd fly into El Paso -- back in 2010 the safest city in the US -- and literally walk across the border into what was arguably the homicide capital of the world,” Schwarz said. “So it was this very grim contrast in reality.”

On the Mexican side of the border, the film follows the story of a Mexican CSI worker, who is known in his job as “the bullet collector.”

“Richi, the character, he loves his job and he's not corrupt. He's there for all the good reasons,” Schwarz said. “But at the end of the day, you learn that 97 percent of the cases never get looked at …. And that reality really haunted me.”

Though Schwarz is clear that he does not endorse narcocorridos, he has grown to see it as an artistic reflection of a dismal situation.

“We can't control arts reacting to reality, and the reality has been very grim for a really long time,” Schwarz said. “To some degree, it's a product of reality that we created, that we have accepted as a status quo. If our policy [is to] let the bad guys win then there will be these kids who see them as Robin Hoods.”

To learn more about narcocorridos and Schwarz's film, which is released theatrically today, check out this episode of “Power Players.”

ABC News’ Alexandra Dukakis, Misyrlena Egkolfopoulou, Tom Thornton, Melissa Young, and Gale Marcus contributed to this episode.