MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Two Mexican singers who were murdered in a wave of drug-related slayings will be competing from the grave for the same prize after they were nominated for a coveted Grammy music industry award.
Valentin Elizalde, killed by drug hitmen last year, and the band K-Paz de la Sierra whose lead singer Sergio Gomez was found dead this week, are among five nominees for best Banda album in the Latin category of the 50th annual Grammy awards.
The nominations on Thursday highlight a wave of slayings of performers of "narcocorrido" ballads about drug cartels and Mexico's folksy and rhythmical "grupera" music. Three musicians were found murdered this week alone.
Some half a dozen Mexican folk musicians have been killed over the last couple of years as organized crime hitmen who once targeted mainly narcocorrido singers like Elizalde have broadened their aim to include more mainstream performers.
Gomez, whose band plays an upbeat strand of the brass and drum-based Mexican dance music known as "Banda," was strangled to death after being abducted over the weekend.
On Friday, Mexican media said little-known trumpet player Jose Luis Aquino of "Los Conde" had also been found dead. Reported missing earlier in the week, Aquino was found with his hands and feet bound, a bag over his head and signs of having been beaten.
Those murders came days after gunmen burst into a hospital and shot lesser-known grupera vocalist Zayda Pena in the face to finish her off after she survived being shot in the back two days earlier in a motel.
Mexico is waging war on drug cartels who control most of the country's organized crime and whose mafia-style lives and daily bloodshed inspire poignant narcocorrido ballads.
The performers can become targets when they are associated with one or other gang.
At least 2,350 people have been killed this year as an army clampdown intensifies turf wars between rival traffickers.
Badboy narco glamour has helped Mexico's rhythmic banda and grupera music, all heavy on drums and live percussion, gain a strong following in the United States over the last decade.
K-Paz de la Sierra is in the running for a Grammy with its album "Conquistando Corazones" while Elizalde, nicknamed the "Golden Rooster," was nominated for his "Lobo Domesticado" disc.
In the main categories, U.S. rap star Kanye West and British neo-soul singer Amy Winehouse led Thursday's nominations list with eight and six Grammy bids respectively.
Winners will be announced at ceremonies in Los Angeles on February 10.