Peru mourns loss of ‘First Guitarist’ Óscar Avilés


90-year-old Óscar Avilés had been passionate about criollo music almost since he could walk and talk. He was a composer, singer, and guitarist. Known affectionately as the ‘First Guitar of Peru,’ he was a haunting musician, transporting listeners to a different time. He was one of Peru’s best loved and most recognizable criolla musicians.

Óscar Avilés died at 90 from heart failure on Saturday, April 5 at 8:55 a.m. He was buried the day after in Baquíjano y Carrillo del Callao cemetery.
He had been in the intensive care unit at Edgardo Rebagliati Hospital since the early hours of Saturday morning with heart problems. his nephew, José Luis Guillón confirmed.

“He left for his meeting with the Lord at 9 a.m. He was in the company of his family and the people who were always by his side,” Guillón said.

The memorable musician had been ill for a while. In November last year Peru this Week reported that he had been admitted into Ricardo Palma clinic after falling suddenly ill, and he had been in and out of hospital before that.

His passion for the guitar started young; his father would often play and sing for his friends. His grandmother taught him his first chords and by 15 he launched his musical career as a cajón player in ‘La Limeñita y Ascoy.’

Óscar Avilés singing ‘El Espejo De Mi Vida’ to celebrate his 88th birthday.

Little Avilés loved his guitar so much that taking it away from him was the most effective punishment his parents could think of. Whenever he got a bad grade at school, 11-year-old Avilés would have his guitar confiscated.

“On these occasions, which happened often, they locked me in an old closet that had four doors, where my father kept an old Spanish guitar. There my mother found me once, squatting, playing guitar,” he said.

Áviles was still touring and playing almost up until his death. Last year, at 89 years old, he led the celebrations for the Día de la Canción Criolla in Lima center’s Plaza Mayor.

At his 87th birthday, he said: “The period in which I captured Peruvian music is an unforgettable period for me because my father’s friends were also fans of criolla music. My father played five instruments: the lute, the bandurria, the flaudette, piano, and guitar, and he sang, played, and danced. On my mother’s side, my grandmother played the piano and guitar, and my mother did the same as well as singing.”Peru’s pioneering criola guitarist, Óscar Avilés has died at 90.