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¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! Presents Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano

¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! opens the new year with Los Camperos de Nati Cano — Grammy-winning masters of the mariachi tradition — in a series of free, family concerts at Isla Vista School at 7 p.m. Jan. 6, at Guadalupe City Hall at 7 p.m. Jan. 7 and at the Marjorie Luke Theatre at Santa Barbara Junior High at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Jan. 8.

Los Camperos will offer a free community workshop at La Casa de La Raza from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Jan. 5, co-presented by La Casa de La Raza. Participation is open for advanced students; observers are welcome.

Mariachi music is an expression that arose in western Mexico in the 19th century and has become a worldwide phenomenon. Played on violins, trumpets, guitars, guitarróns and vihuelas; mariachi features fantastically skillful vocals in repertoire that ranges from heroic corridos, to romantic ballads, to high-stepping polkas and marches. In 2011, UNESCO recognized mariachi as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.

Los Camperos de Nati Cano has existed for more than 50 years and is noted for demanding musical arrangements that highlight the individual skills and voices of the players. The ensemble employs the finest musicians from Mexico and the United States and has performed for audiences worldwide.

Two-time Grammy winners, Los Camperos released their fifth CD with Smithsonian Folkways in July 2015, Tradición, Arte y Pasión, which was nominated for a Grammy award in 2106. Tradición, Arte y Pasión rekindles the spirit of the expansive “golden age” of mariachi music in the 1940s and 1950s.

Los Camperos de Nati Cano were the first to establish a mariachi dinner theater, La Fonda, which was opened in 1969, in the historic Hayworth Building on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. La Fonda was a focal point of Latino culture in Los Angeles from its opening through 2007, providing new opportunities for musicians to perform and bringing mariachi into the mainstream. Los Camperos reopened La Fonda in March to critical acclaim.

Los Camperos regularly tour internationally — leaving others including Mariachi Garibaldi and Mariachi Toros — the opportunity to play in their place La Fonda while they are away. Recently, Los Camperos celebrated Día de Los Muertos in Chicago performing in concert with Lila Downs. In December, Los Camperos travel to Havana, Cuba, to perform at La Casa de Las Americas and in concert with La Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional de Cuba.

Founder Nati Cano was traditionalist and a visionary, who both mirrored and shaped the history of mariachi music. He was born in 1933 into a family of mariachi musicians in Jalisco, Mexico, one of the many west Mexican communities that gave life to the mariachi tradition. His career took him first to nearby Guadalajara, Mexico’s second-largest city, and then farther away to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, he and Los Camperos emerged as a major driving force of the mariachi music tradition in the United States. Nati Cano passed away in October 2014.

In 2015, Jesús "Chuy" Guzmán, succeeded Cano as music director of Los Camperos. Guzmán was a close protegé of Cano's and is widely recognized as an arranger, director, instructor and musician in the genre of Mexican mariachi music. He is master of numerous traditional mariachi instruments including trumpet, vihuela, guitarrón, guitar and violin. For the past 20 years, Guzmán has served as head instructor for numerous international mariachi festivals in the United States and Mexico. He has collaborated on orchestration and musical arrangements for the Symphony Orchestra of Jalisco and has recorded as guest artist with Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán. Guzmán has been a faculty member in the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology since 2000.

¡Viva el Arte de Santa Bárbara! is sponsored by SAGE Publications, the Roddick Foundation, the Audacious Foundation, Anonymous, Elva & Byron Siliezar, Wells Fargo, the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, the UCSB Office of Education Partnerships, the Stone Family Foundation, the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission Community Arts Grant Program, with funds provided by the City of Santa Barbara, in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture.

Additional support comes from the Marjorie Luke Theatre’s Dreier Family Rent Subsidy Fund. The program is supported in part by the Santa Barbara Independent, the Santa Maria SUN, El Latino CC, Radio Bronco, Univision, the Best Western South Coast Inn, the Hampton Inn, and Pacifica Suites. Viva is co-presented by The Marjorie Luke Theatre, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts & Education Center, the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center and UCSB Arts & Lectures, in partnership with the Isla Vista School After School Grant.

— Cathy Oliverson represents UCSB Arts & Lectures.

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