Mariachi gets some respect

creditNativadad Cano, the gent on the right, is a legend in his own time. Born in Jalisco, he came to Los Angeles in 1957 as a member of one of the city's two mariachi ensembles. He started his own, Los Camperos, in 1961 and damn if they aren't still going strong.

The group's resume features a recent Grammy nomination, ten albums (including "Canciones de Mi Padre" with Linda Ronstadt) and performances at the White House and the Kennedy Center. Los Camperos de Nati Cano is the house band, so to speak, at Cano's La Fonda restaurant on the corner of Wilshire and Carondelet. He's in the news himself today as one of the first artists to receive $50,000 — no strings attached — from United States Artists, a sort of MacArthur Foundation for the arts. Among the 50 fellows selected are twelve Californians, including UCLA professor Catherine Opie, CalArts teacher Sam Durant and documentary filmmaker Phillip Rodriguez, a senior fellow at USC Annenberg's Institute for Justice and Journalism.

This morning's Times story lists simply "Natividad Cano, a musician from Los Angeles." His bio at United States Artists puts it a little differently: "Cano is almost single-handedly responsible for the wide reach of mariachi music in the United States." So I thought a little amplification was deserved. I caught the fellow on the left, Jesus Guzman, conduct a troupe of high school students last summer in a small hall at UCLA's World Music Institute and it was simply awesome.

Photo: David Bazemore


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