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While well-versed in many different styles, Torres has strong ties to guajiro, a form of Cuban peasant or country music. He even uses a traditional instrument—the laúd, which is a type of lute with 12 strings. Torres joined the group Serenata Yumunina in 1970, but he left a few years later to serve in the Cuban army. In the army, he played jazz with its jazz orchestra and was a member of the marching band.

Torres later settled in Havana and worked with many of Cuban's top performers as a session musician. In the 1990s he was very busy with two different groups. He worked Celina Gonzalez and formed his own band called Piquete Cubano. He also participated in two other projects—the Afro-Cuban All Stars and the Buena Vista Social Club. Both were ensembles of Cuban musicians, but each with a different focus. The Afro-Cuban All Stars performed Latin dance music while the Buena Vista Social Club wanted to record traditional Cuban music. Both of these projects received strong reviews, but the phenomenal success of the 1997 album, Buena Vista Social Club, put him—and Cuban music in general—in the international spotlight. The record sold more than 1.5 million copies and led to an international tour.

Since Buena Vista Social Club, Torres has made several solo albums, including Havana Cafe in 1999 and a self-titled work in 2003.

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