Argentina: The Musical

January 22, 2010

Leaving Bolivia behind, I walked across the border into Argentina. For the last 15 minutes, I had been pacing down a smuggler’s paradise of cheap clothing, pirated media, and knockoff electronics. But after rambling for 20 minutes in La Quiaca, Argentina, the only thing of note I passed was a parking lot. This is a ghost town. Finally, I found the bus terminal and bought a ticket for the next colectivo to the provincial capital of Salta. The four hour bus journey to the frontier had been an uncomfortable rough and tumble ride over bumpy dirt roads. In comparison, the eight hour trip to Salta was bliss…but more on the transcendent luxury of bus travel in Argentina later. With the pleasant melodies of Folklore Argentino playing on the overhead speakers, I drifted to sleep.

Marching Band, Salta, Argentina

Upon getting settled in to a hostel, I began to explore the city of Salta. I passed by a theater and noticed a flyer for a live performance of Guitarra Salteña that same night. Intrigued, I bought a ticket. After three months of hearing little more than pan flute folk music (No offense to my Bolivian and Peruvian friends, but Andean folk music is not my cup of tea), hearing talented guitarists was a breath of fresh air. Little did I know, more unforgettable musical experiences awaited.

Fernando Fuentes, Guitarrista

The main nightlife district of Salta was bustling with energy on a Thursday night. Ambling about, I overheard the enchanting sounds of two guitars playing in harmony. I wandered in the restaurant and took a seat. "Los Quebrados" are a duo who play a vibrant mix of folklore music and other latin styles. The musicians must have noticed my intense interest, because during a break they invited me over to chat. Next thing you know, one of them hands me his guitar and I’m up on stage playing for the audience. Soon, they joined in and we were a trio!

On the bus ride into Salta, I had sat next to Florencia, a charming young woman returning home from a work project. She offered to take me out to see good local music, and kept her promise. The night after my impromptu performance with Los Quebrados, Florencia and I met up and went to a Peña folklorica. This entertaining show piqued my curiosity in traditional northern Argentine music and I resolved to learn more in the future. But before I had that opportunity, Florencia, a talented musician herself, invited me to her weekly recording studio session. A few days later, we sang the beautiful duet entitled “Lucky” by Jason Mraz. I never would have expected it, but here I was in Argentina, professionally recording a song by a fellow Virginia born musician! And it wouldn't have happened if I hadn't started a conversation with the pretty Salteña on the bus. Gracias Flor!

I had never looked forward to a bus ride so much in my life, and the 14 hour overnight trip from Salta to Cordoba did not disappoint. For about $50, I reserved a spot on the first class coach. Who thought that first class on a bus could be better than first class on an airplane? Service with a smile, dinner and breakfast served on-board, and a glass of red wine to top it all off. But best of all, a seat that converts into a nearly full size bed! I’ve never traveled in such comfort in all my life. After many hellacious bus journeys in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, this was heaven.

One Happy Traveler

I arrived in Cordoba, properly rested and ready to start the day. Cordoba is the second largest city in Argentina and has a definite "big city" feel despite having a mere 1.3 million residents. My hostel was in a prime location: just two blocks from the main square. And, incredibly, I was able to get a private room with a balcony for about $13 a night! Watching the sun go down while strumming my guitar here was a great way to end the day.

My favorite feature of Cordoba is the numerous, long peatonales; pedestrian streets only open to foot traffic. Away from the noise and pollution of automobiles, people stroll by restaurants, storefronts, and performing artists. While doing a little strolling myself, I came upon two musicians playing folklore.

I threw a bill into the guitar case and approached the seated guitarist. Could he give me a private lesson in guitarra folklorica? We arranged to meet, and several days later Andrés was at my hostel teaching me a few songs. Folklore shares a lot in common with flamenco, a style with which I am already familiar, so I caught on pretty quickly. Even more than photos or souvenirs, music is something I can always take with me to remind me of the places that I’ve been. So, northern Argentina has gifted me with many lasting memories!
Me fui, diciendo adiós
y en ese adiós quedó enredado un querer
agitando pañuelos me fui
que lindo añorar tu zamba de ayer


  1. Hi Adam,

    Love the beard, love the pics. Is your recording of "lucky" posted somewhere? Glad to see you are still having a great time. You WILL NOT be able to return to reality.


  2. Thanks! It's not finished yet, Flor still has to put the finishing touches in the studio with the recording engineer. In terms of returning to reality, I think you may be speaking from experience traveler!

  3. Hola Adam,

    Escribo en español para que practiques. Me encanta tu blog, de verdad que los paisajes son maravillosos. Espero que lo estés disfrutando mucho. Respecto a tu look, me gusta como te ves con barba, so different! Te mando un fuerte abrazo.

    Saludos desde México!