Eduardo Mateo – an absolute legend

23 Jan

During my first trip to Uruguay last May I briefly stayed with a bald-headed Vespa freak in Tacuarembó in the North of the country. Mainly I had chosen to couchsurf with this fellow as I fancied making a trip to his town and noticed that the guy was a keen guitarrist. In the end I got on far better with his dog, Telstar, than him but this trip was memorable for one major thing. I asked him for some Uruguayan music and he spent about an hour deciding on three albums by three different artists that I should put on my mp3 player. The first, Hugo Fattoruso, was okay, nothing special. The second was Eduardo Mateo, and I still haven’t managed to get to the third. It took me about two months before I managed to get past the first song on the Mateo album to be the fair. That song was Yulele:

The album I had been given was Mateo’s Classics Vol.1, which is a collection of songs off his first two albums. Along with Os Novos Baianos’ Acabou Chorare this is probably the album I’ve listened to the most during my trip. The fact that I knew nothing about the album and its creator making the experience even better perhaps. It’s quite clear that there is a lot going on with Mateo. His voice is constantly taking on different personalities and the lyrics, well the lyrics are pretty sad. But it’s the rhythms and the unusual melodies that really make these songs great, with some of his vocal harmonies in particular literally bringing me to my knees.

I have been trying to find out more about him but it’s a nightmare. I have been to every bookstore in Montevideo and there is nothing. I eventually managed to find a book that someone had scanned into their computer online. It’s quite interesting but all the blurring and crookedness from a bad scan job make it hard to read for any more than 5 minutes. Other than that all material on the web is in Spanish and not of much interest. There is also a massive lack of live videos on Youtube, hence the videos I am posting here.

Of which, this is another, this time featuring songs from his second album. I just read that only 443 copies of this album were ever pressed. Apparently the public were a little dismayed by the changes he’d made in his voice. After singing quite clearly on his previous albums, he’d decided to try droning his voice more, using even stranger harmonies and many people assumed this was because he had become mentally ill.

And to finish with a quote which I probably have badly-translated from Spanish:

“I am not fully realised as a guitarrist because I am not fully realised as a human being, and further I am not happy. So the music I play signifies my problems. There are spaces when I am playing when I am not me.”

Further information:
Discography of Mateo with links to download many of his albums

5 Responses to “Eduardo Mateo – an absolute legend”

  1. Mariano February 4, 2010 at 6:37 pm #

    Hi, Mateo is the of best ever, talking about music in latinamerica. He was absolutely original, magical and his mystery still living here. I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but my family came from Montevideo since almost 35 years ago. I feel 100% “rioplatense” and when a listening Mateo`s music a feel my roots and all that I am as a human.

  2. Ramiro March 27, 2010 at 12:08 am #

    mateo rulz!

  3. gonzalo varela May 22, 2010 at 1:32 am #

    hi, I´m uruguayan musician and I´m a great fan of Mateo too. I will tell you he is still known as a genious mostly among the misicians, but is still not known among people in general because he doesn´t sound comercial. There are two books written (only in spanish I think): “Razones locas”, chich is great because it analises his life, his period, uruguayan and global reality, his music in details; and “Mateo and Trasante”, mainly photos of the album they made.

    Mateo was a great musician and had “masters” in Beatles, indian music, latinoamerican folk music, clasical, etc and also a solid background as a performer which made him an original and sofisticated artist…he lived a hard life because he was a romantic… many things can be said about him…

    a hug! gonzalo

  4. Pablo June 1, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    Hello friends, I`m Uruguayan too, and bless the Eduardo Mateo`s footsteps. He` is still the shine and light of Uruguayan music. Like someone said: “Before Mateo there was nothing.”

    I wonder what could think people like David Byrne if they could listen the music of this missunderstood genius; maybe pride and joy like us.

    Keep on travelin` througt and between the times, Eduardo…

    Light and peace to your soul and mind, forever…

    Pablo. G

  5. Pablo Massa August 14, 2012 at 5:56 am #

    Here you can see a great documentary about Mateo’s life (in spanish) with a lot of interviews of musicans who work with him and talk about how special and genious person was him.

    Part 1

    Part 2

    Pablo Massa from Montevideo.

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