“I don’t do traditional Ecuadorian music. Instead, I use traditional music language without a definite place.”
Ecuadorian Mateo Kingman has steadily built up his momentum within Latin experimental music, delving deep into the fusion of Andean rhythms and electronica.
In a scene blooming with acts who have found a creative avenue within the miscegenation that music provides, pairing folk instrumentation with electronic sounds, Kingman seems to be at the foreground. “It is a phenomenon that occurred in painting in the 30s in Latin America," Kingman tells Billboard. “Artists began to capture what was happening in their surroundings and mixing their art with European techniques. Painters like Orozco, Rivera in Mexico, Kidman, Guayasamín, both Ecuadorians, did it. In music, it is inevitable that the creators realize the importance of the musical inheritance that endures in different places.”
The runner turned musician born in an American family–his Great Grandfather migrated to Ecuador in the 1910s from Philadelphia–mixes traditional music with contemporary beats as a means of necessity and the boundless influences coming from diverse tools. “We are super global beings with digital, technological tools, taking in music from all over the world,” Kingman adds.
His hypnotic melodies and swirling textures are a nod to his Ecuadorian musical heritage which borrows from different parts of Latin America. His influences vary from Brazilian Caetano Veloso, Argentinian Atahualpa Yupanqui and Venezuelan Simón Díaz to Colombian cumbia and Ecuadorian duet Benitez-Valencia, among others. “It lives essentially in my creative process not as something I want to handle in depth, but as something that is already in me, it's who I am.”
Growing up surrounded by protest music of the 70s and 80s as in Silvio Rodriguez, and other international acts his “taitas” listened to (Violeta Parra, Joao Gilberto), it took Kingman a while to discover global acts. “Radiohead arrived in my life when I was around 18, so did the Bee Gees and Control Machete,” he remembers.
Astro, his sophomore effort, is a self-discovery project which traverses through a cosmic journey of liberation as Kingman spent 15 days of physical, emotional and spiritual healing where he wrote a variety of texts. “I realized these texts could be transformed into songs and that there was a timeline, like puzzles that needed to be filled in,” he adds. “I built a constellation that was shaped like a snake and each star within this constellation became a song. I had the texts for each star, I produced them and recorded the music. It was like an upside-down process. Conceptually it closed very well.”
His latest collaboration with Academy Awards winner, producer and musician Gustavo Santaolalla, “Ultimo Aliento,” is a self-analysis of allicient sounds he wrote as his grandfather was dying. The song, a production by Kingman and Ivis Flies, became a profound connection by both, Kingman on vocals and Santaolalla on background vocals and the boisterous ronroco and its strumming Andean air.
To be able to do the music I want to do genuinely and without external limits.
“Religar.” It contains all the elements I wanted to convey in Astro. Lyrically, it has an introspective and spiritual power. Musically, the exploration of tints which was the most important as well as some urban elements which I considered essential for this album.
We just released Astro so there are some shows taking place in support of the album. The tour kicked off in Guayaquil and we’ll launch the album in Europe during Sept. Also, visiting Chile and parts of Latin America on Oct. Then there’s the release of the album in the beautiful Teatro Sucre in Mexico on Oct. 19 with an innovative light show. I'm also working on new music and plan to release two new singles by the end of the year.