Bandleader Nati Cano, leading figure in mariachi music, dies at 81

Sat Oct 4, 2014 4:39pm EDT
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Grammy-winning mariachi bandleader Nati Cano, who stirred American audiences with the folk sounds of his native Mexico and played a key role in helping to teach young people how to play the music, has died at age 81, a bandmate said on Saturday.

Cano died on Friday at a hospital in Fillmore, California, after a long battle with cancer, said the bandmate, Sergio Alonso.

Born in 1933 in a rural town near Guadalajara, Mexico, Natividad "Nati" Cano grew up with the mariachi music his family of day laborers played in their spare time.

The traditional folk music is centered on the sounds of violins, trumpets, guitar and two guitar-like instruments unique to Mexico, the vihuela and the guitarron.

His father taught Cano to play the vihuela, and he later went to an academy to learn the violin before dropping out to join family members in entertaining patrons at cantinas.

In 1960, after having moved across the U.S. border to Los Angeles, he joined a mariachi group that he would later come to lead and rename Los Camperos, which translates to The Countrymen.

Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano, as the band has been known, went on to use a Los Angeles restaurant called La Fonda as their home base where they performed regularly. They toured with singer Linda Ronstadt to promote her 1987 album "Canciones de mi Padre," and were one of several mariachi bands Ronstadt relied on to make the recording.

Cano was named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 2008 he and Los Camperos won a Grammy Award for best regional Mexican album for their release "Amor."   Continued...

Nati Cano (L) and Jesus Guzman hold their awards after winning Best Regional Mexican Album at the 51st annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles February 8, 2009.     REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni