José Barros

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José Benito Barros or simply José Barros (March 21, 1915 in El Banco, Magdalena – May 12, 2007 in Santa Marta, Magdalena[1]) was a Colombian musician, composer of more than 800 songs in the musical genres of cumbia, porro, merengue, currulao, paseo, bolero and tango. Considered one of the most ingenious and versatile Colombian musical composers.[2]


Barros was the son of Portuguese Joao María Barros Traveceido and Eustasia Palomino and was the youngest of five siblings. Barros didn't get to know his parents, who died while he was still an infant. He was raised by his aunt Clara Palomino. He only lived with one of his siblings.[3]

Barros used to sing in his hometown central square or at rich people's houses to help with his home expenditures. As time passed, he learned to play a variety of instruments, especially the guitar.

He moved to Santa Marta when he became 17 years old, and from there he tried to travel to other places but he was unable to do so because he was drafted for military service. After his time in the army concluded he went back to his hometown, but his desire to visit new places remained, and thus, while everyone in El Banco was partying he decided to go aboard as a stowaway in the steamship Medellin, which came from Barranquilla and was on its way to Honda, an important fluvial port close to Bogota. He was spotted, though, and was dropped in the city of Barrancabermeja. He met other musicians there, who had arrived in similar circumstances, and became part of different groups playing in pubs. After a while, he moved to Segovia, Antioquia, to search for gold.

One year later he arrived to Medellín, where he was declared winner in a songwriting contest with a song called "El Minero" (the Miner). By the end of the 1940s he travelled to Bogota, where he lived with drum player Jesús Lara Pérez "Tumbelé"; he married Tulia Molano in June 12, 1943, who gave birth to one son, José, and one daughter, Sonia. Living in Bogotá he realized that the music coming from his region was becoming increasingly popular, and he devoted himself to songwriting, having a first hit with his song "El gallo tuerto" (the one-eyed rooster).

His fame increased with the time, and he was invited to countries such as Panamá, México and Argentina, an experience that led him to write rancheras and tangos. Later, he met and engaged in a relationship with Amelia Caraballo, in Barranquilla, who gave birth to four children: Adolfo, Alberto, Alfredo, and Abel Guillermo.

By the 1960s, sick, Barros returned to El Banco, and with a group of friends he created and organized the Festival de la Cumbia in 1971.


  • La piragua
  • Las Pilanderas
  • Momposina
  • Arbolito de navidad
  • Me voy de la vida
  • Navidad negra
  • El gallo tuerto
  • Pesares
  • A la orilla del mar
  • Ají picante
  • El chupaflor
  • El guere guere
  • La llorona loca


  1. ^ "Falleció esta madrugada en Santa Marta el compositor colombiano José Barros" [The Colombian Composer José Barros Passed Away in Santa Marta This Morning]. El Tiempo (in Spanish). EFE. May 12, 2007. Archived from the original on May 14, 2007. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
  2. ^ Luis Angel Arango Library; Jose Barros
  3. ^ Luis Angel Arango Library: Jose Barros biography Archived 2007-05-14 at the Wayback Machine