Roberto Torres

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Torres at a ceremony in Union City, New Jersey, where was honored with a star at Celia Cruz Plaza.

Roberto Torres is a Cuban musician from Güines most famous for his interpretation of Simón Díaz's Caballo Viejo.[1] He is considered to be one of the highest authorities in the history of the Cuban music. His singing career with Sonora Matancera puts him at the peaks and among the top singers of Cuba of all times. He has made a valuable contribution, along with Arturo Sandoval, Rosendo Rosell, Celia Cruz, and musicologist Eloy Crespo to the documentary Son, la antesala de la salsa. He is considered one of Cuba's highest assets in music. he also started the careers of many artists singers such as Billy "la voz" Quinones who is also a musician trumpeter/percussionist who at the age of 16 yrs old was Roberto Torres's lead trumpeter and music director by the age of 18. Billy la voz Quinones now sings on his solo CD project as he dedictes to Roberto his version of Caballo Viejo in a new latin Kompa style in which Billy la voz calls Kompalsa a mix of haitian french caribbean sounds with charanga vallento rhythms.

Cuban-born singer, bandleader, percussionist, composer, producer and label boss Roberto Torres started singing in his mid-teens. He worked in Havana with Conjunto Universal and Orquesta Swing Casino before leaving Cuba in June 1959 for New York City. There he organised the cooperative charanga Orquesta Broadway in 1962 with Cuban flautist Eddy Zervigón, making a string of popular LPs with them on the Gema, Musicor and Tico labels between 1964 and 1968. After leaving Broadway he worked with José Fajardo and Sonora Matancera. In 1972 he sang lead vocals with Mike Martínez's Latin Dimensions on their eponymous LP on Mericana. Torres made his solo debut on same label with El Castigador (1973), including the hit "El Caminante" ("The Stroller", which became his nickname), followed by Roberto Torres y Chocolate Juntos '74 on Mericana (a collaboration with Cuban trumpeter Alfredo "Chocolate" Armenteros), De Nuevo, Roberto Torres y sus Caminantes and El Duro del Guaguancó '76-8 on the Mericana subsidiary Salsoul.

In 1979 he launched the New York-based SAR label (co-founded by Sergio Bofill, boss of premier 10th Avenue Latin record distributor GB Records, Adriano García and Roberto) with his own El Rey del Montuno. Over the next three years he produced over 50 LPs on SAR and allied Guajiro, Toboga and Neon labels for Papaíto, Monguito "El Unico", Linda Leida, Chocolate, Henry Fiol, La India de Oriente, Charanga De La 4, Alfredo Valdés Jr and his father, Alfredo Valdés, Fernando Lavoy and many others. Torres and SAR headed an early '80s revival of típico (typical, traditional) Cuban music which was not simply imitation of the orthodox; with African and French Caribbean market in mind he went for a "rootsy" sound, extended tracks: millions of albums were sold. Using many of the same New York-based musicians on various sessions, he formed the SAR All Stars, including Chocolate, Leopoldo Pineda on trombone, the Zervigón brothers from Orquesta Broadway, Valdés Jr. and many others.

Torres' SAR albums included Recuerda A Portabales (songs associated with Cuban singer / composer Guillermo Portabales), Presenta: Ritmo de Estrellas (an all-star charanga), Recuerda Al Trio Matamoros (songs from repertoire of the Cuban trio), Charanga Colonial (another all-star lineup), all '79-81; also three LPs by his Charanga Vallenata '80-2, fusing Cuban charanga and conjunto elements with Colombian vallenata accordion played by Jesús Hernández, vol. 2 yielded the massive hit "Caballo Viejo"; Corazón De Pueblo '84; Elegantemente Criollo '86, made in Miami (where he had relocated, taking SAR with him) with Israel "Cachao" López. The SAR group's output fell off after '82; many stars switched to Caimán Records, formed in 1983 by Bofill and Humberto Corredor; others moved to Laslos Records, formed in 1984; Monguito "El Unico", Valdés Jr. and others also recorded for the Ivory Coast's Sacodis label from 1980 to the mid-'80s, which mirrored the SAR sound. Torres continued to issue solo albums on SAR out of Miami up to 2000 and produce other projects for the label. In the Noughties he recorded with the Tropicana All Stars on Recaredo Gutiérrez's Regu Records and issued Con Mucho Swing - Roberto Torres & Cha Cha Cha All Stars Orchestra on the same imprint in 2004 After Cuba fell under communist dictatorship following the revolution, he moved to New York, New York and then to Miami, Florida where he blended his own Cuban roots with a hot rhythm style from Colombia, vallenato. Information provided by Alain Gomez.

On 2 June 2011, the heavily Cuban-American community of Union City, New Jersey honored Torres with a star on the Walk of Fame at Celia Cruz Plaza.[2]


  1. ^ McConnachie, James; (Firm), Rough Guides (2000). World music: the rough guide. Rough Guides. pp. 625–. ISBN 978-1-85828-636-5. Retrieved 6 May 2011. 
  2. ^ Sanabria, Santo. "Latinos honored in Union City", The Union City Reporter, 12 June 2011, pages 1 and 12