The Blog

5 albums from Uruguay you MUST listen to

Jaime Roos in Salto

The Uruguay music scene has a mixture of rock, pop, tango, folklore, candombe, milonga, carnival sounds. Prepare to be surprised by the creativity and quality of the music emanating from this nation of just three million souls.

Jaime Roos – Contraseña (Password)

Jaime is a Uruguayan institution. In a small country like Uruguay, few musicians are able to make a good living from music. Jaime is one of a handful. Forgive him his moustache. He is hugely popular in Uruguay and neighbouring Argentina. This is my favourite album of his, made entirely of versions of songs by other Uruguayan artists. “Amor profundo” (Deep Love) by Mandrake Wolf became a huge hit. What’s particularly Uruguayan is the use of carnival harmonies (known as murga). The video was shot in Montevideo’s Old City (Ciudad Vieja). On the album, personally I adore Ney Peraza’s guitar on “Tablas“. A few years ago Roos branched into cinema, producing a much-loved documentary of a trip his photographer son and he made to South Africa to support Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup.

Eduardo Mateo – Mateo Solo Bien Se Lame (Mateo does it best on his own)

Mateo was a hugely influential songwriter, singer and guitarrist emerging in the 1960s. A master of rhythm he insisted that the nascent rock scene in Uruguay include local candombe-rhythms that were looked down on at the time, leading to the creation of a new rhythm known as candombe-beat. A wildly unpredictable, addictive character who had periods of homelessness, he died penniless before reaching his 50th birthday.

A short but reasonably faithful biography  on the Murky Recess Blog
David Fricke, Rolling Stone (2007)  on Mateo (his Nick Drake comparison is not great. Mateo was a far more revolutionary musician)

Unfortunately this album has been taken down from YouTube, so I’ve included a different video clip above. But you can buy Mateo solo bien se lame online.


Ana Prada – Soy Pecadora (I’m a Sinner)

I’ve already written about Ana Prada and have to include her here. Ana is the modern face of Uruguayan folk music. Her second album is more urban, acoustic with electronic bases, though she continued using folklore rhythms –milonga, valsecito, chamame– as well as reggae. If you are lucky you might get to see Ana play when you are in Montevideo.

El Club de Tobi – Tobismo (Tobism)

A classical string quartet, El Club de Tobi started out in 1996 playing on Sarandi, the pedestrian street running through Montevideo’s Old City, and underground venues. They play their own arrangements of pop and rock from the River Plate area (Montevideo and Buenos Aires) as well as classics by Hendrix, The Beatles and Bob Marley. Tobismo won the 2011 Graffiti Prize, the equivalent of the Uruguayan Grammys in the Instrumental category.


El Principe – El Recital (The Show)

Gustavo Pena, known as El Principe (The Prince), also struggled to make a living from music and died in his late 40s just as he was starting to gain popularity and audiences to grow. El Recital was recorded live in 2002 with the Club de Tobi. His daughter Eli-U Pena keeps his memory and music alive today interpreting his songs in her uniquely charismatic style. His poetic lyrics are notable for their positive messages. Like Mateo, El Principe has become a cult musician for musicians in this part of the world.

Hear albums by and featuring El Principe including lyrics
Buy the album from local record producer and store Ayui

Seeing bands while you are here in Uruguay

There are so many other bands, songwriters, singers, musicians that could be included. I mean, there’s no tango here! Let alone a ton of other great stuff….

The Guru’Guay Guide to Montevideo includes a dedicated chapter on bands you must see live* when you are in Uruguay and another chapter on where to see those bands play (including how to reserve seats in Spanish).

* For suggestions of live music when you are in Montevideo, visit my Guru’guay Facebook page most days. 

[Article updated: January 10 2017]

Photo: Jaime Roos performing in Salto by Cristian Menghi

7 Comments

  1. Hansi Lebrecht

    June 25, 2016

    gerat website, thanks! 🙂

    I think the band Trio Ibarburu should be on this list as well 🙂
    for me they are (besides the legendary band “Opa”) one of the best exemples of uruguayan music. or at least Nico Ibarburu the guitar-player, sideman to so many good uruguayan musicians …

    see them here: https://youtu.be/5-RPtVnHFyU
    or here: https://youtu.be/dX2v29gXMVo

    Reply
  2. Lynn Welburn

    March 20, 2015

    Mateo was a real phenomenon. A sad, short life but with an amazing gift and vision. My husband knew him back in the day and has shared many stories that just make me admire Mateo more.

    Reply
  3. ufn

    December 15, 2014

    Mateo solo bien se lame…I’ll try to help with the translation. There’s a saying : “El buey solo bien se lame” this literally means “the ox licks himself alone” and the sense is, there are many things you can do without needing the help of others; sometime is best to do something all by yourself instead of all the troubles that bring working in team. So Mateo recorded all the tracks of this record, alone. Voices, guitars, drums. But one day, he left the recording studio in Buenos Aires and never came back. The sound engineer kept the tapes, and a year or two after published this record, and named it “Mateo solo bien se lame”
    Sorry for the bad english, hope this help

    Reply
  4. veronica

    December 15, 2014

    What! No Jorge Drexler? 🙂

    Reply
    • Welshwitch in Uruguay

      December 15, 2014

      Ha! Ha! Veronica, nice try! As Jorge is an Oscar-winning musician, it seems to me that he would have chances of being known outside of Uruguay much more than most. 🙂

      Reply

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