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VALLEY WEEKEND | BEST BETS

July 18, 1996

FRIDAY: Folk for a New Age

Anyone looking for something different from the usual bag of rock bands and self-revealing folk singers might want to check out Common Grounds coffeehouse Friday night when Nazca, an Andean folk music group, will play.

The group, which formed in 1991, is currently comprised of CSUN students, but none are music majors. Like most folk musicians, they are self-taught.

"It's street-bound music--street musicians keep it going and carry on the traditions," says group spokesman Claudio Ramirez. The Andean-style folk music has long been popular throughout Latin America, Ramirez says.

Additionally, the genre has found a new audience within New Age circles. The music is believed to have a higher than average degree of spirituality.

"My belief is that the music is a reflection of nature, which was taught to us by our elders," Ramirez says. "We do it to honor the Earth."

Ramirez says the group is named for the desert area of Peru and Chile, one of the regions where this style of music originated.

Besides music, the area is known for its plains etchings of men and birds that can only be seen from the air, and the legends of extraterrestrial visits that are associated with the etchings.

Besides guitar, the four-man group performs on stringed instruments such as charango and the ronroko, pan flutes such as the samponas, sikus and toyos and percussion instruments including the bombo, chaskis and congas. The members of the group trade off on playing the different instruments.

"We all try to play as many instruments as possible," Ramirez says.

* Nazca plays at 8 p.m. Friday at Common Grounds, 9250 Reseda Blvd., Northridge. No cover. Call (818) 882-3666.

*

SATURDAY: Better With Age

Jose Feliciano is not one to brag, but he thinks he's as good now as he's ever been.

"I don't want to blow my own horn, but at 50 years old, my voice sounds better now than any time in my career," says the six-time Grammy winner, who's performing in Palmdale on Saturday. "Maybe I'm not as anxious to be flashy [as I once was.]"

Feliciano was born blind in Puerto Rico. When he was 5, his family emigrated to New York City. He taught himself to play the guitar and started performing in Greenwich Village coffeehouses when he was 17.

Signed by RCA Records, he made his debut album in 1964, but it was his 1968 jazzy interpretation of the Doors' "Light My Fire" that propelled him to international stardom. Other hits, including "Hi Heel Sneakers," "Feliz Navidad" and "California Dreamin' " followed.

Although he's not heard much on American radio these days, Feliciano has continued to record and perform, mostly in Spanish. The Palmdale concert is one of 150 dates he will play this year around the world. In 1994, he was invited to Rome to perform on "Christmas at the Vatican" and had a private audience with Pope John Paul II.

"Playing for the Pope was a thrill," Feliciano says. "I had a chance to meet a really wonderful person."

He's now recorded more than 60 albums in both English and Spanish. His latest, "Jose Feliciano--Present Tense," features new digital recordings of his classic hits, as well as some new songs. It's been released in England but not yet in the United States.

"It's just an import right now," Feliciano says. "I'd like to get back on the American charts, but it's difficult now with all the crappy music today."

He says he always likes to add something unexpected in his performances, just to keep the other musicians and the audiences on their toes.

"Sometimes my musicians ask me, 'Why must you always play for blood?' " he says. "I hope people say, 'When Jose was playing, he gave it his all.' "

* Jose Feliciano plays in a free concert at 8 p.m. Saturday in Maria Kerr Park, 39700 30th St. W., Palmdale. Call (805) 267-5611.

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