When Americans think of popular Mexican or Mexican-American musicians, they may think of familiar names like Selena Quintanilla or Vicente Fernández. But a man like Chalino Sánchez — the controversial, hard living pioneer of the narcocorrido genre — does not have the same crossover appeal. 

Chalino Sánchez was a Mexican singer who specialized in regional music that wasn’t about unrequited love or country life. Narcocorridos were about drugs, violence and criminal activity. Yes, Chalino Sánchez was controversial — but he was (and continues to be) incredibly popular. 

Much like other popular musicians who changed the musical landscape, Chalino Sánchez died before his time in a violent way. In a shocking death that is often compared to that of Biggie Smalls or Tupac Shakur, Sánchez was killed in May of 1992, his body found by an irrigation canal in Mexico with two gunshot wounds on the back of his head. 

Chalino Sánchez’s sudden death made the singer-songwriter a legend, and larger-than-life figure whose mysterious death spawned conspiracy theories and an even larger devotion to his music from his fans. 

Now, Sonoro and Futuro Studios have launched a bilingual eight-part podcast series exploring both his legacy and the circumstances surrounding his death titled, “Ídolo: The Ballad of Chalino Sánchez.”

Like other bilingual podcast series, “Ídolo: The Ballad of Chalino Sánchez,” will have two versions, English and Spanish, in order to tell the entire story of the Godfather of narcocorridos. 

“We’re telling Chalino’s story from both sides of the border because he died in Sinaloa, but he really mattered to people on both sides,” Mexican-American host Erick Galindo said in the first episode.

Mexican journalist and musician Alejandro Mendoza will host the Spanish version of “Ídolo: The Ballad of Chalino Sánchez,” reporting from Mexico. 

“This podcast sounds like nothing I’ve ever heard before,” said Marlon Bishop, Futuro Studios’ VP of Podcasts. “It’s part cultural history, part murder mystery, and part memoir told from the hosts’ perspective.”

And that it is. Each episode takes a deep-dive into the impact that Sánchez has had on Mexican music, as well as the impact that his music had on Mexican-American culture at large — for better or worse.

The podcast series investigates theories related to who was behind his death — a mystery that was never solved.

Both Galindo and Mendoza reveal their personal connections to Sánchez, telling stories of how the Godfather of narcocorridos impacted their lives on an intimate level.

“I’ll never forget that day in 1992 when Chalino died,” says Galindo in episode one, titled “Introducing Ídolo.” He continued, “news of Chalino’s death came with the figurative and literal shock from my older brother Paul, a tough-ass teenage outlaw in his own right who idolized him. I remember him coming home that day… He came into the living room and announced through hard-fought tears: they killed Chalino. As if he had lost someone close to him.”

“The Ballad of Chalino Sánchez” also features interviews with people who were close to Sánchez in life, like friends and peers.

Each episode of the podcast also features an original narcocorrido that pays homage to the late songwriter written by Mexican and Mexican-American musicians.

“It’s a gripping narrative, but also tackles deep topics around the costs of violence, the meaning of storytelling and the Mexican American experience,” continued Marlon Bishop in his statement. “I can’t wait for people to hear it.”

You can listen to “Ídolo: The Ballad of Chalino Sánchez” on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.