Lara was born in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Cuban immigrants, but much of his childhood was spent in Venezuela, moving to Caracas at the age of 7. At 8, he had mastered cuatro - a four-string Venezuelan instrument from which he graduated to the guitar. He moved with his family to Miami when he was in junior high. While studying electrical engineering at the University of Miami in Florida, he rediscovered his Cuban roots in guajiro, the Cuban equivalent of country, and "son" - Cuban music's answer to the blues. This led him to the tres, a Cuban instrument with a unique sound and with the status of a grassroots instrument in Cuba.
Lara's music is based on Cuban and Venezuelan folklore, with inspiration from Western musicians like Stevie Wonder and Pink Floyd. He formed a group called K.R.U. while at the University of Miami, with whom he released two albums before they disbanded, after which he became a teacher at New World School of the Arts.
In December 1993 Lara released My First Child with his new band, Beluga Blue. He signed to Metro Blue/Capitol Records in 1995, releasing Nil Lara in 1996, produced by Susan Rodgers. He wrote little new material for the next few years, finally releasing Testimony and Da in 2004.
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