The interpreter of the famous “Misa Criolla” and the international icon of charango music passed away on December 24 at the age of 80.
The master’s hands strummed the strings of his Andean instrument for the last time this Christmas Eve. Since December 24, the streets of Buenos Aires have resonated with the sound of his music, echoing his daughters Soledad Torres’ call to “support him and keep on listening to the sound of his charango,” as told to the local newspaper Clarin, for his music to live on.
The son of Bolivian immigrants, Jaime Torres was born in San Miguel de Tucumán in Northern Argentina. It was the time of the “boom del folklore” that started during the 50s: when music became a key element of Argentina’s identity as a developing country and a consumer society marked by urbanisation, immigration waves and cultural diversity. Jaime Torres grew up in the musical effervescence of The Festival of the Nine Moons, that became, near Cordoba, the Mecca for new music styles that would eventually, and increasingly, reach the capital such as chamamé, chacarera, zamba, carnavalito and takirari. At the age of five, Jaime Torres learnt the charango with its master, the emblematic Bolivian artist Mauro Núñez. Being a disciple, Jaime Torres later became Andean’s culture herald in the world, fitted with this small five-string guitar named charango, typical instrument of the Andes Cordillera that counts the vihuela of the Spanish conquerors among its ancestors.
With the revival of African and Native American music cultures, Jaime joined the compañía de folclore (folklore band) of the renowned Argentinian composer Ariel Ramírez. Formed by Ramírez, the poet Felix Luna, the band Los Fronterizos, the drummer Domingo Cura and the charango player Jaime Torres in 1964, the band came as a shock to the Argentinian music scene. They reinterpreted a song for mass in folkloric style, creating the cultural hybrid “Misa Criolla.” This music echoed far and wide, proving so powerful that the world discovered the charango and its champion: Jaime. From the opening show of the 1974 World Cup in Germany, to the numerous movie soundtracks he composed; from the prestigious Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, to the Berlin Philharmonic, the Great October Hall of Leningrad or the Lincoln Center in New York, Torres always played with the same ardor and dignity, no matter the circumstances.
Travelling the world, Jaime Torres never forgot his amerindian origins and created, in 1973, the cultural center Tantanakuy (meaning “meeting” in the Quechua language), which is devoted to the preservation and the transmission of traditional arts. Preserving his ancestral culture, Jaime Torres always adapted to the world he was living in, crossing, for example, Argentinian folk music with electronic music, in the hybrid project Electroplano, in 2007. As the Quechua avatar of Hermeto Pascoal, Jaime always pushed the limits of his creations with the charango, jazz and improvised music. Altopiano, realised with the drummer Minino Garay and the flutist Magic Malik would prove to be one of his most original works.
His charango is the metaphor of the “Kichiwa,” an immortal plant of the Andes that is resilient and resistant, even to pesticides. Neither dictatorship nor capitalism could overcome Jaime’s music because his music was like him – visionary, seductive and anchored in the Pachamama (the goddess Mother Earth).