Bluegrass Beyond Borders: Estación 39 brings bluegrass to Buenos Aires

“We met in 2019, in an old time jam. After a few months, Matt, the founder of Estación 39, started talking with me, Juma (I play the banjo) and Dani Boy (he plays mandolin) about joining his band, which, at the time, already had a fiddler and a double bass player.” So says Juam Molina when asked about the origins of the band to which he belongs, specifically Estación 39, a bluegrass group that’s quickly gained fame in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

“The repertoire was a little more country than bluegrass,” Molina recalls. “Then, in January 2020, Estación 39 was invited to a festival in Vicente López Boardwalk here in Buenos Aires. That’s when Nuala joined as our fiddle player. At that point, our repertoire became one hundred percent bluegrass. It was the start of a new era for Estación 39. A few years later, Irina joined the band as our double bass player.”

Molina describes the band’s sound as traditional acoustic string band music infused with the influence of their Argentinian heritage. “Maybe you can hear the South American mix in the way we sing, or in the direction we take for the songs and the tunes,” he suggests.

Nevertheless, their influences lean towards the basics of bluegrass. He lists Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, J.D. Crowe, Tony Rice, Sam Bush, Béla Fleck, Punch Brothers, Old Crow Medicine Show, Billy Strings, Molly Tuttle, Sierra Hull, and Michael Cleveland among those that have impacted them with an indelible impression.

Molina says that in the beginning, the band would perform in the city’s streets and local bars. “After some time, the places became bigger, and calls from festivals started coming in,” he explains. “We love touring, and our province is very big, so we are used to traveling many miles to take our bluegrass to every corner of Buenos Aires.”

The festivals where they’ve performed include the San Pedro Country Music Festival, which, Molina says, is the biggest event in the region. “We’ve been invited every year since 2020, and we love going there,” he adds. “We also headlined the Buenos Aires Bluegrass Festival, which was the first actual bluegrass festival to take place here in Argentina.”

Although they’ve shared stages with local musicians — “with the very best, on this side of the world,” Molina says — their dream is to play alongside any of the artists that have influenced them. “We hope someday we can have that opportunity,” he says. “We work everyday for that.”

Happily, in return, their music has been well received by audiences back home. “Bluegrass has had an incredible growth over the last few years,” Molina maintains. “If you think about the lyrics within our folklore, and as far as a tango, the stories are really similar. Plus, the music is universal. Bluegrass music in particular creates a happy and fun sound. You can see how it’s possible to create a certain mood just by picking the first three notes on a banjo.”

Up until this point, the group has leaned mostly on covers as far as their live shows and recordings were concerned. “On our last album, Buenos Aires Bluegrass,, we included songs like Old Home Place, How Mountain Girls Can Love, Big Spike Hammer, and I Believed In You Darling,” Molina says. However he adds that the group is working on penning some original material that they’ll target for inclusion on their next album.

Molina also offers an opinion on why bluegrass is so popular with international audiences. “Maybe it’s all about modern times and the way we can share music,” Molina muses. “Bluegrass is reaching places that we never could imagine. The rest is easy because bluegrass is awesome!”

Estación 39 can be found at various social media sites, including Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and Spotify.

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About the Author

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman has been a writer and reviewer for the better part of the past 20 years. He writes for the following publications — No Depression, Goldmine, Country Standard TIme, Paste, Relix, Lincoln Center Spotlight, Fader, and Glide. A lifelong music obsessive and avid collector, he firmly believes that music provides the soundtrack for our lives and his reverence for the artists, performers and creative mind that go into creating their craft spurs his inspiration and motivation for every word hie writes.