Born on December 9, 1949 in Quibdó, Chocó, the composer and singer Jairo Varela is one of the main references of Colombian salsa. From a long musical career – at the age of nine he was part of the group La Timba – Varela is responsible for the great hits of Grupo Niche: “Cali Pachanguero”, “Busca por dentro”, “Hagamos lo que diga el corazón”, among many others hits to dance. His death – on August 8, 2012 – mourned the community of Latin American dancers and salsa lovers.
Together with Alexis Lozano, Varela founded the group Niche in Bogotá in 1979. However, the real takeoff of the group occurred when in 1983 he settled in Cali, the capital of Valle del Cauca. At the time Alexis Lozano left Niche to found Guayacán Orquesta, another classic salsa group with his own life and shows.
In the history of Niche and Varela there are two key moments: the choice in 1984 of Cali Pachanguero as the song of the Cali Fair and the incorporation in 1986 of the Puerto Rican singer Tito Gómez to the list of the Colombian group. The most remembered hit from that stage of Niche is “Cómo podré disimular”, a song that shows how is pain for the loss of love.
The real leap to fame was given by Niche in 1990 with the album Cielo de tambores, delivered to the public after the departure of Gómez and the consolidation of Charlie Cardona, Javier Vásquez, Ricardo “Richie” Valdés as main voices. This album contains songs like “Busca por dentro”, “Una aventura”, “Se pareció tanto a ti” and “Sin sentimiento”, songs that are an essential part of Niche’s repertoire in any of their presentations, even now their making their own appearances under the blessing of the family of Varela.
Not everything was rosy for Varela and Niche. In 1995, after a tour in the United States, the composer was captured for alleged links to the Cali cartel. Varela spent a year behind bars. From that experience he drew the inspiration to write several of the songs on “A prueba de fuego”.
Varela died of a heart attack. According to his relatives, he was concentrating on writing the novel Black Lights, based on his life in the Colombian Pacific. In Cali, Plaza Jairo Varela was created, in honor of the singer from Chocó, who died at the age of 62.