Q&A with Andrés Salguero of 123 Andrés and Author of Hello, Friend / Hola, Amigo

Zakiya Jamal  //  Jul 30, 2020

Q&A with Andrés Salguero of 123 Andrés and Author of Hello, Friend / Hola, Amigo

123 Andrés, the Latin Grammy-winning husband-wife team of Andrés Salguero and Christina Sanabria, are teaching artists creating music, media and live shows in Spanish and English for children and families. Before COVID, they performed for audiences across the US and Latin America, and now they continue reaching thousands of families each month through online videos and events. This August, they are releasing Hello, Friend / Hola, Amigo, a board book based on their hit song "Hola, Amigo" that celebrates friendship in a diverse world.

Learn more about the book in our interview with Andrés and Christina, and their sing-along video below!

Scholastic: How did Hello, Friend / Hola, Amigo come about?

Andrés Salguero: It started as a song. One day ten years ago, I was running errands and went to use an ATM in my neighborhood. When I looked at the keypad, I saw someone had recently scratched off the Spanish instructions. I didn’t need the Spanish instructions, but it still hurt.

At the time, I was a graduate student pursuing a Doctorate in Music. Growing up in Colombia, I always knew I wanted a career in music, and I was fortunate enough to be able to move to the US for graduate studies. I was working towards a job in academia, becoming a Clarinet Professor, but I had also been writing songs for years, and songwriting had become a tool for me to process feelings and tell stories.

That day at the ATM, something clicked for me. It was such a small act, but so meaningful, and it made me reflect on so many other experiences I had had, both positive and challenging. A few hours later I had written Hola, Amigo, my first bilingual song for children. Later, when I decided to pivot from classical music to children’s music full-time, Hola, Amigo would become the opening song of our first album, ¡Uno, dos, tres con Andrés!

Scholastic: Why did you decide to write Hello, Friend / Hola, Amigo in two languages (Spanish and English)?

AS: There are so many families growing up bilingually in the US! For some families it’s a matter of preserving a connection to their roots, and for others, they’re looking for enrichment and to be even more connected to the rest of the world.

Many of our albums are dual-language, meaning we write the same song both completely in English and completely in Spanish. We work to get the lyrics to rhyme and flow musically in both languages – it can get tricky! Our goal is to convey the same meaning in both languages, even if it is not a direct translation. We’re so glad that we were able to do that with Hello, Friend / Hola, Amigo, in book form, too!

Even though the song and book Hello, Friend / Hola, Amigo are in Spanish and English, we also allude to speakers of other languages.

“If you speak Arabic, Chinese or French, we can all just be friends/Aunque hables quechua o mandarín, un mismo idioma es sonreír.”

Christina and I feel thankful that we are bilingual, and we are curious to learn about other languages we don’t yet speak!

Scholastic: It’s been ten years since you wrote the song "Hola, Amigo". What have you learned about friendship in the years since? How has your understanding of friendship changed?

AS: Since I started 123 Andrés with Christina, we have learned so much. First of all, I couldn’t have gotten started without friends and mentors. Dino O’Dell, a children’s musician in Kansas City, was an early mentor to whom I owe a great deal, and is still a great friend. And, we’ve made so many other friends along the way – educators, musicians, families – who have supported us. For me, this is a reminder of how consequential friendships are to our careers and work. As we talk about equitable access to opportunities, it highlights how important it is for each of us to reflect on how diverse our social circles are, and, rather than to be “color blind,” to make an effort to cultivate friendships with people across race, nationality, religion and other forms of diversity. This is the message I hope children and families take away from Hola, Amigo!

The events of this year, both the pandemic and the increased attention being given to topics of racial equality, underscore the interconnectedness of our world. Prevailing over these challenges will require us to work with people in other cities, states, regions and countries, and will require us to be willing to see the humanity in each of us. I’m hopeful that children growing up during these times will understand that profoundly.

Scholastic: What’s next for 123 Andrés?

AS: To celebrate Hello, Friend / Hola, Amigo, we’re also releasing a new album! It’s titled Hola, Amigo: Songs About Friendship and includes remastered versions of "Hola, Amigo" and "Hello, Friend," as well as eight more songs that explore the theme of friendship. And of course, we invited several friends, old and new, as featured guest artists.

And then in a few months we’ll be welcoming springtime, with our next title with Scholastic, Ten Little Birds / Diez Pajaritos (April 20, 2020).

To learn more about Hello Friend / Hola, Amigo, click here. To learn more about 123 Andrés, click here.