May 4, 2005 - Most people are more apt to associate Marana with cowboy poets than with Japanese drummers.

When the Marana Arts Council's first-ever music series starts on May 7, though, two town parks will provide stages for free concerts rooted in Japanese, Mexican and Caribbean traditions.

The Marana Heritage Performing Arts Series aims at celebrating cultural diversity in a setting where people can unfold their picnic blankets, open their coolers and relax.

"The Marana area has a diverse cultural makeup," said Sandy Groseclose, the arts council's executive director. "We thought it would be a good idea to feature different ethnic groups represented in Marana, to give people a better understanding of the diversity, but also of the similarities."

The first concert, scheduled for 7 p.m. May 7 at Ora Mae Harn Park, will come two days after the Cinco de Mayo holiday that celebrates Mexican independence, and will feature music with Mexican and Tex-Mex flavor.

The five-member band Los Giros de Israel Paredes will provide the show. The band includes several members who live or work in Marana, and has given energetic performances at Marana functions celebrating Founders Day, Fourth of July and Cinco de Mayo, Groseclose said.

"People will probably tend to get up and dance, with this one," she said.

The second concert, scheduled for 7 p.m. May 21 at Continental Ranch Park, will feature Caribbean music and entertainment by the Richard Noel Steel Drum Band. The interactive band's local performance venues include Foothills Mall.

"The steel drummer mingles with the audience and gets them involved," Groseclose said.

The final concert, scheduled for 7 p.m. June 4 at Continental Ranch Park will feature the Tucson-based Japanese drumming group Odaiko Sonora.

The group's brand of drumming, Taiko, was used traditionally in Japan as a form of communication on battlefields and in villages. It also accompanied singers and actors in theater.

The group performs throughout Tucson.

The concert series is being staged at two Marana parks for a reason, Groseclose said. The hope is that the choice of locations will facilitate socializing between the newer and more longtime residents of Marana.

"We want people to get out of their comfort zone and come to Continental Ranch if they live in Marana, and vice versa," Groseclose said.

The arts council is planning a second concert series, for fall, also to celebrate diversity, Groseclose said. It is looking for sponsors and performers for the event.

Ora Mae Harn Park is on Lon Adams Road, across from the Marana Municipal Complex. Continental Ranch Park is on Coachline Boulevard, in the Continental Ranch development.

For more information, call 682-4488.

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