The timing couldn’t be better for the premiere of El Chapo, a new series about Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, which premieres this Sunday, April 23. The real life El Chapo, notorious for his sensational escape through a tunnel dug underneath the maximum security prison in Mexico where he was being held in 2015, is certain to make headlines again on May 5, when he is due in U.S. court following his recapture and extradition.
The bio series marks the first co-production between Univision’s Story House Entertainment and Netflix, which will offer El Chapo as a fitting follow-up to its trafficking drama Narcos after it finishes airing on the Spanish-language network. Mexican actor Marco de la O plays El Chapo.
The show opens with a sultry and slightly sinister ballad sung by former Calle 13 vocalist iLe, who won a Latin Grammy for her 2016 debut solo album. The Puerto Rican singer wrote “Vienen a Verme” with Colombian composer Andres Botero. Listen to the song and catch a preview of the series below- exclusively on Billboard.
“Vienen a Verme” is basically a song about a desperado,” Botero tells Billboard. “I tried to picture a Mexican cowboy, modern, but old school as well… I always asked myself what El Chapo’s heart would sound like. It had to be calm, but driven. So the beat comes from that interpretation of his pulse.”
Botero adds that he purposely chose not to give the song a distinctly Regional Mexican sound.
“We wanted to steer away from that, without losing [the feel of] Mexico,” he says. “I believe that for a TV show, obvious is not the right way to go. As songwriters and producers we intend to cater to a bigger audience, with a sound that many can relate to and feel. So the essence of the song found its place in a more classic, vintage sound, with Mexican traditional elements to color it that particular way. The trumpets resemble a lonely mariachi, the guitars played by Gabriel Posada gave it the acoustic feel, while we tried to give it a more contemporary rhythmic style.”
Andres Sanchez composed the music heard throughout the series, together with Gus Reyes and Dudu Aram.
“We assume [El Chapo] listens to and likes banda music… and the famous narcocorridos, but we didn’t use that kind of music for the score,” the series composer stresses. “The first thing we talked about was that he didn´t want to make this series with traditional Mexican music styles. We discussed Mexican and foreign movies from the 80s, from police thrillers to blockbuster iconic films where analog synths, which are the forefathers of electronic music instruments, were used all the time. Those sounds can be considered today as cheesy or even a little ridiculous, like just a synth bass with a strange pulse or a squeaky sound on top of it, but they have personality in a way…We also decided to use acoustic guitars, and some other Latin American instruments so the music had a bit of a Latin vibe and some geographical localization hint.”
Sanchez adds that series creator and co-writer Silvana Aguirre wanted to avoid a soundtrack that could be interpreted as glorifying El Chapo.
“She asked of us not to create music that apologizes for his doings in any way much less makes him a hero or a Robin Hood type of character,” he says. “Nevertheless, it was kind of obvious that we were going to get intimate with the character in some ways, and live the harshness and pain of the consequences of his actions through this representation of his life. So that is what we tried and hope to achieve in this series with the music. A bitter-sweet mixture of emotions that can give audiences the sensation of the characters’ reality in a world that is never quite right, nor calm, and most of the time is like being near hell.”
Hear “Vienen a Verme” and get a first look at El Chapo here: