Violin, vihuela, guitar and trumpet all come together to produce mariachi, a music of the people that celebrates their struggles, joys and accomplishments. No other mariachi group has mastered the style like Grammy-winning Mariachi Los Camperos, who return to Napa Valley on Feb. 10 for “Viva Mexico! Viva America!” a performance at Lincoln Theater.
Mariachi legend Natividad “Nati” Cano found the group in 1960, choosing the name camperos, Spanish for “countrymen.”
A traditionalist and a visionary, Cano played an integral role in the development of mariachi music in North America by mentoring new musicians, expanding the repertoire, and bringing mariachi performance out of the traditional venue, the cantina, and into the concert hall. In 1989, Cano received the National Heritage Fellowship of the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. government’s highest honor in traditional arts, in recognition of his life’s work. His death in October 2014 was mourned by performers, students, and lovers of mariachi around the world.
Asked in 2009 how he felt about his success, Cano replied: “I did it to preserve, to rescue so many beautiful songs. I never thought that we would be nominated for a Grammy. I did it as a tribute to Mexico, to its people, who are the ones who keep these beautiful songs alive. We only did what we were supposed to do and we are very proud.”
Jesús “Chuy” Guzmán succeded Cano as music director of the group. Guzmán was a protege of Cano and is master of numerous traditional mariachi instruments. He has collaborated on orchestration and musical arrangements for the Symphony Orchestra of Jalisco and has recorded as guest artist with Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan.
The band has played across the United States and in places like Carnegie Hall, Disney Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and the Orange County Performing Arts Center. In 1987, the ensemble achieved musical acclaim for their participation on Linda Ronstadt’s Canciones de Mi Padre.
Los Camperos shared a 2005 Best Musical Album for Children Grammy for “cELLAbration!, A tribute to Ella Jenkins. In 2006, the album “Llegaron Los Camperos” was nominated for a Grammy. In 2008, the group released their third CD with Smithsonian Folkways, titled “Amor, Dolor y Lágrima,” which won the 2009 Grammy for Best Regional Mexican Album. In 2015, the group released its forth CD with Smithsonian Folkways, “Tradición, Arte y Pasión,” which was nominated for a 2016 Grammy for Best Regional Mexican Album.
Mariachi Los Camperos will be performing at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theater in Yountville. Tickets are $10 for children and students, and regular ticket prices are $45, $65 and $85. For tickets, go to www.lincolntheater.org or call the box office at 707-944-9900.