One of the greatest classical guitarists in the past century is Agustín Pío Barrios. He is a native of Paraguay born in 1885 as the fifth of seven sons, the very larger family were all lovers of music and each of them played a musical instruments. The family placed a high value on the arts with an emphasis on drama, literature and music. Agustín’s father, Don Doroteo Barrios hailed from Corrientes, Argentina and was a guitar player himself. The father and his sons uses to entertain the locals in San Juan Bautista regularly with music.
Agustín’s mother was a teacher, she taught her children the value of literature and encouraged in them a love of theater. While Agustín may have inherited his love of guitar and playing style from his father it was his mother who gave him the affinity for languages and love of poetry. Both of his parents created the environment which allowed their child to excel and become a world renowned musician.
Small Town Roots
Barrios grew up in a very small town, to this day you can still walk down unpaved streets. Although the town has two monuments dedicated to its most famous son, both are located right in the center of town at the main square in San Juan Bautista. Early on Barrios demonstrated how multi talented he was along with his passion for languages. He spoke Spanish, Guarini (the native tongue of Paraguay) along with understanding German, French and English. Aside from music he showed interest in poetry, theology and philosophy. Barrios also had an affinity for art as he later became a caricaturist and calligrapher.
It isn’t really surprising that Barrios wanted to see the world outside of his small town. He believed that “One cannot become a guitarist without having bathed himself in the fountain of culture”. His life would go far beyond the simplicity of a small town in Paraguay and the opportunities provided therein.
Barrios never did study at a formal music conservatory but he was introduced to classical guitar by Gustavo Sosa Escalada. Escalada would become one of the most influential people in Barrios life. Barrios was already composing music and performing music written by Alias. With Escalada, Barrios would study the musical styles of Vinas, Sor and Aguado. Barrios would eventually move to Asuncion to continue learning classical guitar.
From here Barrios would go on to become one of the most influential classical guitar players of all time. His work and playing style is still studied by music students today.