BACKTRACKS: Francis Mateo

On this third edition of BACKTRACKS, actor and poet Francis Mateo takes us back to his childhood in the Dominican Republic, where a Cuban love song inspires tears during a blackout, and an American pop song gets the kids scatting at a family party.

Listen to Francis here:


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The first song Francis discusses is “Veinte Anos” as performed by Omara Portuondo with The Buena Vista Social Club. Omara was the only female member of the ensemble. “Veinte Anos” is a Cuban form of the bolero-son, originally written by singer, guitarist and composer María Teresa Vera, whose career began in the early 1900s and spanned decades until her retirement in 1962. She was a renowned practitioner of Cuban roots music called trova, after the trovadores who traveled around earning a living by singing and playing guitar. Vera passed away in late 1965.

Here is a recording of Veinte Anos by Maria Teresa Vera, recorded around 1958:

Our BACKTRACKS guest, Francis Mateo remains inspired by both Latin and American music, especially when it comes to his writing:

Ten or fifteen years ago, I was hooked on Silvio Rodriguez, this Cuban singer songwriter. To listen to his voice, to listen to how he made these lines, these verses, it was really great for me. I have his whole collection. The thing is there are days when I just want to listen to Bach…but there are days when I just want to hear some lyrics. I like stories better, like Bob Dylan. I mean to me, Bob Dylan was amazing, and Bob Marley. Just the mood that it puts you in, that’s the main thing, this mood of opening yourself to the world and just receiving everything. And hopefully you can give something back. I’m a writer, and what I write is nothing compared to these people I mentioned. And yet, I can’t stop writing because it’s something that I need to do.

We’ll leave you with a sample of Francis Mateo performing his poetry:

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