Pablo Estigarribia: “The Latin Grammy opens the doors to work all over the world”

From the city of Resistencia to Las Vegas. Weeks ago, the Latin Recording Academy delivered the 23rd Latin Grammy Awards.

Pablo Estigarribia learned to play the piano in Resistencia and his mother was his first great teacher. Little by little he made his way through the world (photo Daniel Arakaki).

Fito Páez, He killed a motorcycle policeman and the pianist from Chaco Pablo Estigarribia were the only distinguished Argentines.

In this exclusive talk with Pablo we take a tour to discover the background of the album that led him to the highest distinction.


Pablo Estigarribia learned to play the piano in Resistencia, where his mother was his first great teacher. Then, little by little, he made his way. In 2014 he had released a solo piano album and won the Gardel award. Since then he has not stopped growing. He went to live in the United States and has now returned to the country, but he continues to share time between Argentina and the USA.

For the recording of the album ‘Horacio Salgán Piano Transcriptions’ he has now received the Latin Grammy. ‘I heard the music of Horacio Salgán for the first time when he was 17 years old in Resistencia. It was for a birthday ‘, he recalls in telephone dialogue. When he discovered Salgán, he only wanted to make that music, he started looking for sheet music and found nothing, that was the first injection to work on Salgán’s legacy.

-First you made the sheet music book and then the record. What was the central click or motivation to make this record by Horacio Salgán?

-The story already begins with that birthday when I heard Salgán’s work for the first time. From the first time I heard it I liked it. After listening to that first record I went looking for sheet music to play on the piano. Salgán plays in a unique way.

He has his own arrangements that there are no other pianists. You can appreciate his art in arrangements on songs like Boedo, Independiente club, Fuimos, songs that have incredible arrangements.

I went to look for sheet music and there was nowhere, I even went to Sadaic to ask and there was nothing either. That was several years ago, at that time I had reflected on the need to work and have those scores. Salgán never published his arrangements. He had a prodigious memory and played from memory, he did not have a sheet of music in front of him while he played. He did not make written records.

After much searching and insisting, I found some things written by other pianists. However, these scores were similar but they were not exactly what Salgán played. In this context I decided to write the scores and leave them at the service of the people. So I began to listen to his music very carefully. Until I found a pirated recording of the only concert that Horacio Salgán did on solo piano. It is an informal recording from 1991, made by the musician Juan Carlos ‘Mono’ Fontana of a solo piano concert by Horacio Salgán within the framework of the Piano Festival on the Lake Stage, in Buenos Aires.

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“I am very proud of Argentine music and Salgán is our Mozart”, expressed Estigarribia (photo Arakaki).

There I found the genesis to transcribe Salgán’s work, because in the other recordings there were the orchestras and that was more difficult to clean up to listen to the solo piano. Doing the job takes a long time. During the pandemic I found that time that it was going to take me to work punctually on each song in the repertoire. During the pandemic we all stayed locked up and that’s when I found the right time to work on the album.

-Today we have the reference of Salgán as one of the greatest tango artists in Argentina. From your experience on different stages of the world, is his work known in the world?

-In my personal experience, they know him in very tango cities and circles like Medellín or Paris. But in other areas they do not know it. In the United States they know Piazzolla. For me, Salgán is one of those great geniuses that we have in the country and who does not enjoy the recognition that he should have. The idea of ​​the sheet music book was precisely to put at the service of musicians who want to play this incredible work. I was interested that they can access the scores in pdf and that they are available to anyone anywhere in the world. The idea is to open the game of tango. I am very proud of Argentine music and Salgán is our Mozart.

-The initial project was the book. Then came the record, why?

-The book with the scores was the central objective. I wanted and want to spread his work throughout the world. I never imagined that I would end up recording the album.

I have many students in the United States. They told me that the book had to come with the recording of a disc. The recording that was there was informal and could not be edited.

In this context, the idea of ​​making the disc was born, because the book necessarily had to come with the disc in order to make a game for it and make it a complete kit. The complete kit is the book and the disc. So you listen to the record and you can read the book. For that simple reason, I sat down to study and it was a spectacular experience.

– A spectacular and enjoyable job.

-Yes, totally. With this book I feel that I did something that I had to do for tango and for music. Now I receive videos of people playing Horacio Salgán in Japan or France, that’s wonderful and beautiful.

-The album has more than ten songs, which song did you enjoy playing the most or which one do you have a special affection for?

-It all started with the song Don Agustín Bardi. He had already played it with the Emilio Balcarce Tango School Orchestra many years ago. He felt that the transcript was not complete. When I found that recording of Salgán from the year 91 playing solo piano, I discovered that he adds or modifies a piece of the work with a beautiful arrangement. I transcribed that just as Salgán played it, and it was the first song I transcribed.

-This year Fito Páez, he killed a motorized policeman and you are the only ones who won a Latin Grammy, what does it feel like?

-You know I didn’t go to the ceremony. In those days of the awards I was doing a tour of Chicago, so I couldn’t go. In second place was a trio with Pablo Motta ensemble & Franco Luciani, Los tangueros del Oeste, Mariana Quinteros and Ricardo Montaner. How was a solo piano record going to compete with a Ricardo Montaner record? My record doesn’t have any guests, it’s just me playing Salgán’s work.

The day of the awards ceremony I did not watch television. I was at the hotel. Suddenly they call me on the phone to let me know that I won the Grammy. In March they are going to send me the award to Buenos Aires. I still pinch myself every morning to see if everything that happens is true or not.

– What does it represent in the workplace?

-This is a big push. This is a profession that, while beautiful, is also fraught with financial uncertainty. One wonders from time to time about if he did something else, if he could be better.

When they give you this award, it is support and peace of mind because it opens other doors to continue working.

It is also a change, from now on, when you go to apply for a Visa to reside in another country, everything will be easier. Because with an award like this it is easier to get a Visa. Open the doors of the world to travel and make music.

We want to give thanks to the author of this write-up for this incredible material

Pablo Estigarribia: “The Latin Grammy opens the doors to work all over the world”