Nearly five decades of Mariachi Los Camperos came alive under the direction of Jesús ‘Chuy’ Guzmán during a Sunday performance at the Tower Theater.
Guzmán – the musical director since 1992 of Mariachi Los Camperos, which the late Nati Cano led to achieve worldwide acclaim and two Grammy awards – performed nearly three hours Sunday.
Prior to his death in 2014 from cancer, Cano, born Natividad Cano, entrusted Guzmán to complete any future direction of Los Camperos. Cano wanted Guzmán to use his name with Los Camperos.
“I thought it would be an injustice,” said Guzmán. “Nati Cano opened the doors for the mariachis to the amphitheaters in the U.S. and out of the bars.”
As the audience praised the performance of the five-time Grammy nominated Los Camperos, the 51-year-old Guzmán, a self-proclaimed traditionalist, can rest assured the genre remains appreciated.
Los Camperos and Guzmán became a household name in 2008 when he teamed with Cano to win a Grammy for best regional Mexican album for “Amor, Dolor Y Lágrimas: Música Ranchera” released by Smithsonian Folkway.
“I follow the same thing,” said Guzmán on keeping the musical genre and tradition alive.
Guzmán first met Cano in Tijuana, while working in a restaurant and collaborated for over 25 years.
Los Camperos has graced such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center and the Kennedy Center. They even collaborated with Linda Ronstadt on two occasions for ‘Canciones de mi Padre’ and ‘Canciones de Siempre.’ Guzmán and the group have also collaborated with Pepe Aguilar and Vicente Fernández.
Guzmán is eager to keep up the tradition through new generations. In memory of Cano, the group last year released ‘Movimientos.’
While Guzmán believes all things change and eventually evolve, he hopes mariachis will include some tradition and originality.
“The young people that we teach the music are hungry to learn,” said Guzmán, who picked up a violin by age 7.
“We can’t ignore or set aside that life is changing … everything changes and the music does too, but we give it some color. We want to put more sentiment into it so it doesn’t lose its history.”
Los Camperos delivered on the evening with some serenading and plenty of tradition.
“I’ve never seen Nati Cano with his group, but I heard he was legendary,” said Madera resident Arturo Rodríguez, who attended the concert with his sister and her husband.
“I was in a folklórico group in high school, and I really liked that they had those dancers dancing to the music.”
Pati Arroyo said she enjoyed the authenticity of the show.
“It appeared to have the authentic music of my mother,” Arroyo said in Spanish, “I saw Nati with his musicians like three times. For me, I love the dancers who make a story to the music.”
Los Camperos return to the Central Valley to the Fox Theater in Visalia on June 9. The group will also host a mariachi clinic June 8-9.
To register for the clinic and to buy tickets to the show, visit mariachisun.org.