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The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Banda singer 'Tito Torbellino' shot to death in Mexico

MEXICO CITY - A U.S.-born singer of northern Mexican "banda" music has been shot to death at a restaurant in the border state of Sonora.

State police in Sonora said Tomas Tovar Rascon was born in Phoenix, Arizona, and was shot several times at the restaurant in Ciudad Obregon.

Tovar Rascon, 33, was better known by his stage name, "Tito Torbellino."

His Facebook page said he was scheduled to perform at a concert in Ciudad Obregon on Friday. A U.S. booking agent listed for Torbellino confirmed his death.

Police said two gunmen entered the restaurant Thursday and shot Tovar Rascon at close range. He died on the way to a local hospital.

Members of other musical groups have been murdered in Mexico in recent years, usually groups that perform "narcocorridos" that celebrate the exploits of drug traffickers.

But while some guns appear in Torbellino's music videos, 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.

In 2013, South Texas singer Jesus "Chuy" Quintanilla was found shot in the head near Mission, Texas. Quintanilla was well known for his ballads, including some about the exploits of Mexican drug cartels.

Elijah Wald, author of the book, "Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns and Guerrillas," noted previous victims have included singers of a number of genres, not only narcocorridos. Getting entangled with the girlfriend of a criminal, for example, could be dangerous.

"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.

Wald said he didn't have any information on the motive in the Torbellino's killing, but noted that the singer appears only recently to have become successful.

"It's often just a matter of somebody sponsoring someone who isn't paying them back or isn't being properly respectful once they make it," Wald.

"You're in a world where's it's very, very easy to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, or have the wrong friends or look sideway at the wrong girl. The list of things you can do wrong once you're in that world gets very large."

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