Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano 

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Style: Mexican Mariachi

Friday: 7 p.m., Altria Stage.
Saturday: 4 p.m., the Community Foundation Stage.
Sunday: 1 p.m., the Community Foundation Stage.

Those who saw Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano — generally considered one of the leading three mariachi ensembles in the world — when it played the first Richmond Folk Fest in 2005 haven't forgotten it. And not just because of the torrential rain.

"I clearly remember sitting under a dripping tent with Chuck Wrenn and Page Wilson, shivering cold and soaked to the skin, along with maybe 10 other people," programming committee chairman Jim Wark says. "And watching this magnificent mariachi band play with a power and passion that I'd never seen before. It was amazing. We all could only wish there were more people there with us."

Now you have another chance. Based in Los Angeles, Los Camperos are one of the finest examples of this proud Mexican musical tradition that grew out of a regional Jalisco style some 75 years ago to become the national music of Mexico. Founder Nati Cano is a big reason why the music is now respected. He began by supplementing the family income at age 6, but eventually studied music and worked to change the reputation of the genre through various ensembles in the United States.

Los Camperos was founded in 1967 and opened the first La Fonda (dinner theater for mariachi) in Los Angeles. Since then, his group has recorded with Linda Ronstadt, been featured in a PBS special, played for two American presidents and won about every award possible for this grand and sweeping musical style.

Be prepared for theatrics and full-throated singing. The traveling group in Richmond will feature nine players.

"I love watching other musicians watch this group, because their jaws are dropping," says Julia Olin, executive director for the National Council for the Traditional Folk Arts. "Nati Cano really is a perfectionist."

Now in his 80s, Cano has been fighting cancer and this could be one of his final trips. So do yourself a favor and don't miss this true legend of Mexican music — and let him know you feel it.


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