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Banda singer Tito Torbellino shot to death at close range in Mexican restaurant

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On May 31, ABC News reported that the newly popular Mexican "banda" singer Tomas Tovar Rascon, known better by his stage name "Tito Torbellino," was killed Thursday in Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico when two men entered a restaurant and shot the singer several times at close range. Torbellino, 33, was born in Phoenix, Ariz. and was scheduled to perform at a concert in Ciudad Obregon the day following his shooting death. Torbellino died en route to a local hospital.

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Over the last several years, other musicians have been killed in Mexico for performing "narcocorridos,” a form of traditional polka-style folk music with lyrics that promote a variety of illegal activities including murder, torture, racketeering and drug smuggling. Some music critics have compared narcocorridos, which can be heard on both side of the Mexican border, to U.S. gangster rap. Although there are photos of Torbellino on some of his Facebook pages and in some of his music videos showing him with guns, “his songs mainly focused on unrequited love, not drug gangs.”

Experts say drug capos sometimes target musicians because of their ties to rival groups, or sentimental involvements.

Author Elijah Wald who wrote "Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns and Guerrillas" said that other musicians who didn’t necessarily promote narcocorridos have suffered the same fate as Torbellino. Other than to say that Torbellino had just recently garnered a spike in his popularity, Wald couldn’t speculate as to a motive for the singer’s murder.

The author did say that in addition to singing about illegal activities, other musical themes like “Getting entangled with the girlfriend of a criminal, for example, could be dangerous. The list of things you can do wrong once you're in that world gets very large."

"In that world, it's probably more dangerous to be singing romantic songs than narcocorridos because it increases the chances that somebody's girlfriend will suddenly decide that you're the cutest thing ever," he said.

Azcentral reported that the Arizona born singer was just back in Phoenix last week to celebrate his birthday. While in Phoenix, he updated his Facebook status to read, "Happy on my birthday. Even my son was with me. Thank you to everyone in Phoenix."

Torbellino performed his last concert in Scottsdale on May 23.

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