My next guest will be Mateo Stoneman, who is definitely not your typical singer of boleros, traditional Spanish-language dance music that originated in Cuba in the late 19th century and are popular throughout much of Latin America.
For starters, Stoneman, who was born Matthew, not Mateo, is a self-described “white guy” from the American state of New Hampshire, where Latinos comprise a tiny minority of the population. Also, Stoneman did not learn to play boleros at New York’s Juilliard School of Music, or even a music conservatory in Havana or Mexico City.
He learned to play boleros, and to sing in Spanish, while he was in prison in California, and when he got out, found that if he put a hat down in the street and started playing, people would offer up spare change and dollar bills. Since then, he’s recorded regularly in Cuba with members of the Buena Vista Social Club, and has issued a handful of CDs, including his latest, Under the Moonlight. A film about Mateo’s life recently premiered in the United States at SXSW.