Mariachi gets a makeover: Omar Naré offers new spin on a proud tradition

‘Nuevo Mariachi’ concert at Bitwise is a weekend highlight.

Groundbreaking artists are impatient. They aren’t content to do things the same old way. They push and pull and stretch. They are never quite satisfied with the status quo.

With his style of “Nuevo Mariachi,” Sanger native Omar Naré gives a makeover to the beloved musical artform of his youth. He isn’t against what he calls “pure mariachi,” but he wants his version — which he describes as a blend of “sophisti-pop and mariachi traditions” — to crackle in modern times. For that, he’s getting attention. A recent public radio story on Naré delved into his fascinating life story and musical innovations. (A mention of and link to that piece, which I recommend you give a listen, even made it into the New York Times.)

Omar Naré Poster Feb 2018

You can hear Naré’s music at a Bitwise concert on Saturday, Feb. 17. I caught up with him for a fascinating discussion.

Q: Your grandfather was a farmworker. You’ve worked in the fields yourself. What connection does mariachi have to the land?

A: I like to imagine that my grandfather packed clothes, blankets, and a box of Pedro Infante records when he drove from Mexico to California with my abuelita! Mariachi has always been the music of the land. The earliest mariachi musicians would wander from hacienda to hacienda picking fruit and training horses. At night, they would play their violins and guitars. Later, the music became organized, hip and urban — think Mexico City in 1936 — but it has always maintained its folk identity, even till today. It’s always been music of the land.

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Now streaming: the February episode of The Munro Review

A special thanks to artist Marcos Dorado and actor Greg Taber for being my guests on  the February installment of “The Munro Review,” produced by the Community Media Access Collaborative (CMAC). Marcos talks about his new exhibition at the Fresno Art Museum — and even does a quick drawing demonstration on air. And Taber tells us about the new Theatre Ventoux production of “King Lear,” which opens Friday, Feb. 2, at the Fresno Soap Co.

Also: I recap my reviews of “Sense and Sensibility” and “Annie,” and I preview lots of February events to come, including the Fresno Philharmonic and the Fresno Art Museum’s big Trashique fashion show.

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New exhibitions take roost at Fresno Art Museum

David Tomb’s “Rockfowl and Other Wonders” and Marcos Dorado’s “Immigrant Me” are part of a powerful winter/spring lineup

With its new round of winter/spring exhibitions, the Fresno Art Museum is taking flight.

I got the chance to preview three of the museum’s five new shows, which open Saturday, Jan. 27. There’s a lot to appreciate. From radiant depictions of birds in their natural habitats to an intimate series of portraits saluting immigrants, these new exhibitions can be startling, evocative, aesthetically impressive and infused with tenderness and meaning.

I’ll be writing about each of the exhibitions at greater length as they continue, but here’s a sneak peek.

Winged wonder: a detail from David Tomb’s mammoth work “Rock and Rockfowl.” Photo / Fresno Art Museum

Bird extravaganza

In David Tomb’s “Rockfowl and Other Wonders,” the San Francisco artist transports the viewer to various locales around the world, all of them the homes of some of the rarest birds in the world. Tomb has had a fascination with nature and science ever since he was a kid, and he has managed in recent years to intertwine his fine-art skills with his love of nature. If “big” in art impresses you, chances are you’ll be amazed at the size alone of some of these works, including the centerpiece “Rockfowl” mixed-media piece, depicting a rainforest in Ghana, which at 27 feet wide and 11 feet tall makes you feel you’re about to enter a jungle.

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Share in my video debut

My new monthly talk show gets its big premiere tonight, thanks to CMAC. You’ll be able to access it on demand

There might not be a red carpet tonight, but let’s cue up the rotating spotlights downtown anyway:

The talk-show version of The Munro Review premieres at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 4, on CMAC 1 (U-verse 99 and Xfinity 93).

A monthly talk show, you say, complete with “Tonight Show”-style desk and comfy chairs for the guests? You bet.

It premieres on CMAC 1 (U-verse 99 and Xfinity 93), and it will rerun throughout the month of October. You’ll also be able to watch the show on demand at and on CMAC’s YouTube channel. Plus — because we believe in lots of options — you can watch it right here on this very post.

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Happy trails

A beautiful Sunday traveling Sierra Art Trails was a chance to meet more than a dozen talented artists

Sunday’s Sierra Art Trails had it all: great weather, a Fresno River that actually had water in it, outstanding brownies (thank you, teenage son of Lisa Anderson and Martin Shapiro), friendly patrons, a nice Coarsegold lunch spot (another thank you, Wild Fig Kitchen), and even a substitute landscape photographer (Franka Gabler had to catch a plane to Italy, so a friend held down the fort at her studio).

Plus, of course, welcoming artists at every stop.

I stuck to the southern part of the Trails this year, starting at Yosemite Lakes Park and making it to the outskirts of Oakhurst. I only wish I could have visited even more artists. But there’s always next year! Here’s my pictorial journey.

With Carolyn Hartling in Yosemite Lakes Park. My friend Barbara bought the beautiful painting right above us.

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May the force not always be with us

Are the new security measures at Saroyan Theatre the new normal? I hope not

The Bee’s Rory Appleton has an interesting piece about something new for audience members at the Saroyan Theatre: bag checks and metal detectors. The practice is part of a larger trend of increased security at the Save Mart Center, Selland Arena and other local venues.

Appleton writes:

A series of unrelated events both in Fresno and abroad have led many of the local venues to tighten up their bag policies. Some also have added metal detectors to their entrance routines. Both are a byproduct of 2017 life, but both have led to long entrance lines for everything from rock concerts and symphony performances to San Joaquin Valley Town Hall events.

My first encounter with the Saroyan’s new security policy was the long line to get into the Fresno Philharmonic’s opening pops concert of the season on Saturday night. When I arrived at about 7:20 p.m., 10 minutes before the concert was to begin, the line to get into the south entrance stretched almost to the parking garage.

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Friday night brights

Two fun things I want to get out there in the big old digital world:mamma-mia-544

The first is a bit of interesting news from Good Company Players. The rights to “Mamma Mia” were just released, and the title will replace “Hairspray” in the 2018 season. Opening date is March 22.

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Sept. 8)

Options include grand opening of Parabolic Gallery and a staged reading of “Curious Incident” at the Selma Arts Center

Here’s a rundown on promising arts/culture picks for the weekend:

Parabolic Gallery

After a distinguished career as a design professional in Southern California, Anthony Fernandez moved to Fresno last year to begin a new chapter in his life. He dreamed up Parabolic Gallery, which promises an “intersection of fine art, furniture design and decorative arts, both contemporary and vintage.”


A grand opening party for the gallery, at 431 E. Olive Ave., is 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 9. The public is invited. Featured artist is Michael Frank in a show of digital art titled “Permutations.”

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