Gabriel and Martiniano Berrelleza are only 22 years old, but the cousins from the Mexican hamlet of La Vainilla, Sinaloa have already seen enough to fill the broadcasts of what they call "musical news
Gabriel and Martiniano Berrelleza are only 22 years old, but the cousins from the Mexican hamlet of La Vainilla, Sinaloa have already seen enough to fill the broadcasts of what they call "musical news."
The boys left Mexico when they were 14 and crossed the border into Arizona, eventually finding their way to Phoenix, where they looked for work playing the sierreño guitar music they had learned at home.
They slept on floors and barstools, went without food and work until friends chipped in and bought the Berrellezas guitars and a cell phone. They had business cards printed up, and before long they were playing quinceañeras and weddings as Los Cuates de Sinaloa.
They eventually got a manager and recorded an album. Six discs later, Los Cuates de Sinaloa were signed to Sony BMG.
Now, with their latest album, "Puro Sierreno Bravo," the duo debuts at No. 8 on Billboard's Heatseekers chart and at No. 22 on the Hot Latin Albums chart.
Single "El Carril Numero Tres" is representative of the narcocorridos, or musical stories of the drug trade, that fill the album. The song is about a purported highway lane between the US and Mexico through which drugs are transported as the authorities look the other way.
Los Cuates don't make up the stories they tell in their songs: they are taken straight from news stories and talk on the internet, says Berrelleza.
Regional Mexican radio hasn't always played songs in the controversial (though popular) genre, whose singers have been killed in recent years for saying too much in their songs.
"We check [our songs] well before taking them public in order not to offend anyone, so we don't have problems with absolutely anyone," says Berrelleza.
In the wake of the murder of rising regional Mexican star Valentin Elizalde last fall, and subsequent attacks and threats against other singers of narcocorridos, Los Cuates are not playing shows in Mexico, but rather hitting the dance circuit in the US and taping television appearances such as "Don Francisco Presenta."
Vows Berrelleza, "We're going to keep singing corridos because it's the style of the group and people support it."