For over three decades, Barbarito Torres has been one of the strongest musicians to arise from the Cuban guajiro tradition. Playing the laoud, or Cuban lute, he has played with a variety of ensembles both in Havana and the Cuban countryside.
Torres' professional career started in 1970 with Serenata Yumunina, a group led by Higinio Mullens. In 1973 he entered the military and joined the marching band and army jazz orchestra. In three years he was discharged and traveled with Siembra Cultural, which was later renamed Grupo Yarabi. Eventually he settled in Havana and became a permanent member of Orquesta Cubana de Cuerdas. He also began to do session and backup work and was featured with some of Cuba's most prominent musicians, including Albita, Sierra Maestra, and Elio Reve. Later he joined Celina Gonzalez and her Grupo Campoalegre as their musical director; at the same time, he was featured with Grupo Manguare, recording and touring with both groups.
Torres stayed with Gonzalez until 1995, but in 1992 he began to build his own projects, forming his own group, Piquete Cubano. Perhaps the greatest advancement to his career, however, was his contribution to another two ensembles, the Afro Cuban All Stars and the Buena Vista Social Club. Their self-titled debut albums received worldwide attention and helped spur a revival in Cuban music. Both ensembles won a number of awards, including a Grammy for the Buena Vista Social Club album in 1998. In 2000, Torres released a solo album, Havana Caliente, which featured a number of the players that had been featured in his previous ensembles, including Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo, and Luis Mirabel. ~ Stacia Proefrock