Jairo Varela Martínez, Colombian musician and founder of the salsa group El Grupo Niche, died August 8, 2012, after falling in the bathroom of his Cali home, “apparently suffering a heart attack and hitting his head”, according to family sources. Varela was born in Quibdó, in the Colombian department of Chocó, on December 9, 1949.
At the age of 8, he formed a band in Quibdó called La Timba [a type of salsa music] and in the 70s he moved to Bogotá, where in 1978 he started the salsa group El Grupo Niche. This salsa band became an icon of the country for songs like “Gotas de Lluvia”, “Ana Milé“, “Cali Pachanguero”, “Una Aventura”, and “La magia de tus besos”.
There was a time when drug traffickers hired the orchestra for their extravagant parties, which caused Varela to be linked to drug trafficking. He was charged with “profiting through illegal means” [taking dirty money] and imprisoned, which debilitated him financially and emotionally. He later wrote a novel about his hometown and continued working on his new album, which will soon be released by his children.
His body was taken to the Teatro Jorge Isaac en Cali for vigil, so his followers could gather en masse to say good-bye until August 12, the date on which his orchestra would perform a musical tribute.
The user Oscarcito (@oscarcitomundo) [es] quotes two of his songs:
@oscarcitomundo: Ana Mile tú no tienes, no tienes la culpa, q tu niño este llorando, porque su padre no cumpla! Te pinto pajaritos en el aire. “Jairo Varela”…
The journalist Ángela Patricia Janiot (@patriciajaniot) [es] tried to interpret one of his songs and ended up praising Varela's work with the orchestra:
@patriciajaniot: “Una aventura…..es tan bonita”. Como no destacar la dimensión internacional que Jairo Varela le dio a Niche.
Fernán Martínez (@FernanMartinez) [es] considers him a poet:
@FernanMartínez: Leyendo al poeta Jairo Varela, elogio a las cosas más sencillas metidas entre los sentimientos más profundos. Imágenes y emociones.
Some blogs dedicated themselves to reporting [es] what had been reported by several traditional media outlets as a tribute to Varela, while the blog El Payanes closed a short tribute with an emotional phrase [es]: “Today Colombian salsa and the entire world is in mourning”. Other blogs like Nuestra Gente Digital [es] shared his music videos, like this one which many recognize as an anthem that he sings to the City of Cali: “Cali Pachanguero”:
Meanwhile, the blog Qué hay para hacer stresses his importance [es] towards promoting the good image of Colombia:
Para la música del Pacifico, para la Salsa que nos identifica y para el país en general es una gran pérdida, pues Jairo Varela además de músico y compositor, fue un empresario y un visionario que se convirtió en imagen de Colombia para el mundo.
And the blog Noticias del mundo salsero closed an entry [es] with the following acknowledgement and tribute:
Después de más de 35 composiciones, más de 130 músicos que pasaron por el Grupo Niche, de más de 30 años de carrera musical, y de un sin número de premios obtenidos; hoy, a la edad de 62 años tras padecer de problemas de tensión alta, el compositor chocoano Jairo Varela se despidió de este mundo para hacer parte del orquesta celestial. Feliz Viaje Jairo…!