How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

A search for "The Corrido of L.A."

Art by Gajin Fujita, courtesy of LACMA

Move over, Randy Newman. Los Angeles may soon have an additional theme song, and it's a corrido.

Plans are afoot to create the "The Corrido of L.A.," a song written in the traditional Mexican narrative ballad style that best captures the essence of the city, as part of a student contest. The contest, announced today, is a joint project between the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the University of Southern California and is being held to commemorate the centennial of the Mexican Revolution.

Contest judges will include the band Ozomatli, which will set the top ten entries to music and perform them Dec. 18 at Hancock Park, adjacent to LACMA.

The contest is open to students in grades 7-12 from both public and private schools throughout the city, said Ilona Katzew, curator and co-head of the museum's Latin American art department. While the song is to be written in corrido style, it may be written in any language and its subject matter is flexible, Katzew said, so long as the song invokes the city.

"We want to make this very flexible and open-ended," Katzew said. "Everybody has different concerns. The beauty of doing something like this is that it casts into relief aspects of city that not everybody is attuned to. It can be a personal story, a romantic story, the story of the relationships between people, or the story of an aspect of the city that has had an impact on the person who is writing the song."

The deadline for entries is Nov. 15. From the LACMA website, a definition of the corrido:

corrido is a narrative song or ballad in poetry form developed in Mexico during the 1800s and popularized by the Mexican Revolution.

This brief video from Mexico's El Universal daily (in Spanish) explores the corrido art form from its traditional roots to today's narcorridos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNXA_uAcOgs

I'm looking forward to hearing what comes out of the contest. Of course nothing, I mean nothing, can replace Mr. Newman's "I Love L.A." But the new corrido might give some Angelenos another way to express affection for their fair city. Lo queremos! Lo queremos!

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