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Grupo Niche

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  • Years Active: 1980s, 1990s


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All Music Guide:

Colombian Grupo Niche was formed by Jairo Varela, joined by pianist Nicolas Cristanelo, bassist Francisco García, sax player Alí Garcés, trombonist Alexis Lozano, percussionist Luis Pacheco, singers Jorge Bassam, and Héctor Viveros, making their debut with the release of Al Pasito in 1980. After becoming one of the major tropical acts in their native country, the group had the opportunity to participate in a salsa festival at New York's Madison Square Garden in 1986. Grupo Niche's new lineup debuted in 1987 with Tapando El Hueco, touring Europe for the first time in 1989. A year later, Puerto Rican singer Tito Gómez decided to leave the band, being replaced by Colombian Carlos Alberto Cardona. During the '90s, Grupo Niche turned to romantic lyrics, leaving behind their traditional songs based on social issues.


Grupo Niche is a salsa group founded in 1980 in Cali, Colombia. Currently based in Cali, Colombia, it enjoys great popularity throughout Latin America. It was founded by Jairo Varela and Alexis Lozano. Varela remained with the group until his death in 2012, becoming producer, director, songwriter, vocalist and guiro player. Alexis Lozano, trumbone player and arranger later left to form Orquesta Guayacán. It also included Nicolas Cristancho, on the piano; Francisco Garcia, on the bass; Luis Pacheco, on the congas; as well as vocalists Jorge Bazán and Hector Viveros.

Grupo Niche's first album: "Al Pasito" was released in 1980, did little to challenge the dominating salsa band of Colombia at the time, Fruko y sus Tesos. The following year, however, the group found success with their second album, "Querer es Poder", particularly with the single "Buenaventura y Caney".

The group relocated in 1982 to Cali where they have been based since. After recording two more albums, Grupo Niche released "No Hay Quinto Malo" in 1984, which featured their signature song, "Cali Pachanguero". The tribute hit single to the "world salsa capital" catapulted Niche as one of the top salsa bands of Colombia.

In 1986, the band incorporated Puerto Rican vocalist Tito Gomez, who had previously worked with the famous Puerto Rican salsa group, la Sonora Ponceña, and Ray Barretto, the Godfather of Latin Jazz. Later that year, Grupo Niche released "Me Huele a Matrimonio". Afterward, yet another Puerto Rican joined, the pianist Israel Tanenbaum, who would eventually leave the group to join a Niche spin-off band: Orquesta Guayacán.

Grupo Niche is known for both its vigorous, uptempo dance music as well as slower-paced romantic numbers. Among its best known hits are "Cali Aji", "Del Puente Pa'llá", "Sin Sentimientos", "Una Aventura", "Etnia", "Gotas de Lluvia", "Han Cogido la Cosa", "Mi Pueblo Natal", "Hagamos Lo Que Diga Corazon", "Duele Mas", "Nuestro Sueño", and the famous cumbia "Canoa Rancha". Their most famous song is "Cali Pachanguero".

Some other singers from Niche throughout its history include Alvaro del Castillo, La Coco Lozano, Tuto Jiménez, Saulo Sanchez, Tito Gomez, Moncho Santana, Charlie Cardona as well as Willy Garcia and Javier Vasquez, now members of the group 'Son de Cali'. Most recently the portoricans Oswaldo Roman and Julio Lopez and actual singer Elvis Magno from Buenaventura. They have been very successful, and some of their songs are considered Classics of Salsa Music. The group still enjoys some of its past successes, and keeps on tour, making worldwide presentations, and singing their most memorable songs.

Musician Tito Gomez, who fronted the group for seven and half years (1985–1992), died on June 12, 2007 in Cali, the city of the Grupo Niche where he had stablished.

^ "Charlie Zaa", Contemporary Musicians (2005). Gale. Retrieved from Galenet Biography Resource Center on Oct. 10, 2008.

Jairo Varela[edit]

Bandleader and co-founder Jairo Varela Martínez was born on December 9, 1949 in Quibdó, Colombia, the son of merchant Antonio Varela Pedro Restrepo and writer and poet Teresa de Jesús Martínez Arce; Varela remembered her as a woman of great strength that gave his life character.

His first contact with music occurred when he was eight years of age in a "barrio" called Roma de Quibdo where he formed the group "La Timba", essentially composed of musicians playing only the flute, bongos, maracas and güiro.

At the age of 62, Varela was found dead in his Cali home on August 8, 2012, apparently from heart failure. Jairo's daughter, Yanila Varela has been the Grupo Niche's manager since her father's death in 2012.

^ JairoEPD.swf. Gruponiche.com. Retrieved on 2012-08-10.^ Cobo, Leila (August 8, 2012). "Jairo Varela, Founder of Colombia's Grupo Niche, Dead at 62". Billboard.biz. 

Grupo Niche in Montreal, Canada[edit]

Grupo Niche played in Montreal on July 21, 2001 for a party to celebrate the independence of Colombia (July 20). Grupo Niche was also accompanied that night with another band called Balmore Estrada y su Nueva Sensacion, who was formed in the late 1980s by Balmore Estrada.

Grupo Niche also played again in Montreal, on July 15, 2006, in the festival colombiano, October 2008 and on May 8, 2010 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the band.

According with the Latin site Hola Calgary on October 11, 2008, Grupo Niche played at the Jack Singer Concert Hall EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts in Calgary, Alberta.

^ Concierto del Grupo Niche en Toronto. Torontohispano.com. Retrieved on 2012-08-10.^ Grupo NICHE en Calgary. Hola Calgary. Retrieved on 2012-08-10.

Grupo Niche in Vancouver, Canada[edit]

Grupo Niche played in Vancouver in October 2008.

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