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Cuban Music Lesson: Barbarito Torres

Get ready to be schooled, asere. It’s time for a Cuban music lesson! Learn to tell your cha cha cha from your mambo without leaving your couch. Put on your dancing shoes, guayaberas, park your 57 Chevy, light up that Habano, and pay attention.

By Jack Tomas

Have you ever seen one of those tapestries from the middle ages? The ones that look like comic book drawings sewn by your grandmother? In the corner, there is always some dude in pantaloons playing a lute. He’s the minstrel. His job was to tell stories about kings, queens, and their royal shenanigans. You don’t see a many minstrels wandering around these days. I’m pretty sure they’d get stabbed on the subway. But the lute, or its Cuban grandson the laud, is still alive and well. And no one plays it like Barabarito Torres, the Jimi Hendrix of the laud.

Barbarito Torres was born with the extremely Latino name of Barbaro Alberto Torres Delgado in Matanzas, Cuba. Barbaro means “incredible”. It also means barbarian, but we don’t think this is what his parents meant. Barbarito picked up the laud at a young age, and was trained as a musical prodigy. The laud is a descendant of the Moroccan lute but injected with Cuban salsa. It sounds like a cross between a mandolin and a twelve-string guitar. Barbarito took his skills into the Cuban army, becoming one of their big band leaders. When he got out he played in several bands, particularly in Celina Gonzalez’s group. When people say laud in Cuba, they mean Barbarito.

His biggest success came in the nineties when he teamed up with Juan de Marcos Gonzalez for the Afro-Cuban All Stars. Later, this super group would morph into the biggest band of old farts since the Rolling Stones: The Buena Vista Social Club. In their shows he was famous for his insane solos and playing the laud behind his back. I think he should try breaking it and setting the laud on fire to be more like Jimi Hendrix. You know, but without the drug overdose thing. He’s one of the few guys left from the Buena Vista Social Club. Partly, because he wasn’t in his 80’s when they recorded the album.

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