Agustin Pio Barrios (b. May 5, 1885, d. August 7, 1944) was the greatest virtuoso guitarist/composer of the first half of the present century. He was born in the small town of San Juan Bautista de las Misiones in Paraguay into a large family which esteemed both music and literature. He began to play guitar in a very early age. His first formal teacher, Gustavo Sosa Escalda, introduced young Barrios to the Fernando Sor and Dionisio Aguado methods. Maetro Gustavo, also introduced many pieces by Tarréga, Viñas, Arcas, and Parga. Barrios was recognized as a prodigy and given a scholarship to Colegio Nacional in Asunción, where, in addition to music he distinguished himself in mathematics, journalism, and literature.
For Barrios, culture was an important thing in his life. He was quoted as having said “One cannot become a guitarist if he has not bathed in the fountain of culture.” Besides Spanish, he also spoke Guarni, the native language of Paraguay. He also read English, French, German, and was keenly interested in philosophy, poetry, and theosophy.
His astounding creative facility enabled him to compose over 300 works for the guitar during his life. He composed preludes, studies, suites, waltzes, mazurkas, tarantellas, and romanzas. Barrios’ knowledge of harmonic science also enabled him to compose in several styles, such as baroque, classic, romantic, and descriptive.
Barrios started, from 1930 to his death, to be recognized as Agustín Barrios Mangoré (Chief Nitsuga). In that same year came the birth of Barrios’ new persona, Cacique Nitsuga Mangoré, the “messenger of the Guaraní race”.
Disillusioned with his success, Barrios developed this persona in order to attract a greater audience and at the same time pay tribute to his forefathers. During this episode of performances by Chief Nitsuga, Barrios would dress in full Guaraní tribal outfits.
Barrios came up with “Nitsuga” by spelling backwards his own name, Agustín, and “Mangoré” was taken from the historical figure of Chief Mangoré, leader of the Timbúes people, circa 1528.
Now days, many classical guitar player play some of the works of Barrios in the concert hall including, La Catedral, Un Sueño en la Floresta, Danza Paraguaya, El Sueño de la Muñequita, and many more.