Not a bad opening match, all told!
You know, there used to be a time when the words ‘Uruguay’ and ‘World Cup’ went together like ‘Billy Corgan’ and ‘whiny bitch’. They both hosted and won the first one, in 1930, before hopping over the border to Brazil and gazumping them in their final in 1952. All this and two Olympic golds in the ’20s, too. They’re a shadow of their former selves now, though; largely relying on the skills of two gifted frontmen, one of whom looks not entirely unlike Simon Amstell.
Not unlike football, Uruguay’s music has tended to be overshadowed by that of its much larger neighbours, Brazil. Yet it had its own version of tropicalia, running concurrently to the Brazilian psychedelic revolutionaries, and the biggest name was in that was Eduardo Mateo. Finding an English-language equivalent for Mateo is difficult; he was an enfant terrible of the nation’s music scene, who was rumoured to struggle with mental health issues, and yet he became arguably the most influential musician the country had ever produced. The below track comes from his 1976 collaboration with Montevido born percussionist Jorge Trasante; a record recorded after both musicians were exiled from the country by the government-imposed period of martial law that ravaged the nation in the mid-’70s.
Before Mateo’s blend of rock, traditional Latin-American folk forms, and psych, though, there was the Uruguayan invasion – which is exactly what it sounds like. After The Beatles and their compatriots began to dominate the airwaves all over the civilized world, hundreds of Uruguayan teenagers were inspired to pick up some instruments and form rock’n'roll bands – this became known as the Uruguayan invasion when the bands ended up with sizeable fanbases in Argentina, especially Buenos Aires (a relationship that still remains to this day for Uruguayan rock bands and their Argentinian admirers). The Beatles worship was so rampant that the bands frequently favoured English over their native tongues, which resulted in songs as quaint as this.
Rock and its deviations, if we’re being brutally honest, tend to dominate any kind of discussion about Uruguayan popular music, which is almost a shame, really; one need only look over to some of the countries surrounding it to find out what the rich folk history of Latin America can bring to the 20th century when it’s harnessed properly. Indeed, a fine example of that exists with one Uruguayan poet, a man named Horacio Ferrer, who was involved in some of the most magical South American music of the decade – but we’ll save his collaborations with the legendary Astor Piazzolla for another time. For now let’s play out with some Abel Carlevaro, a world-renowned classical composer and highly influential classical guitarist. Frankly no discussion of Uruguay would be complete without him. Here is one of his Preludios Americanos as performed by another giant of Uruguayan classic guitar, Cesar Amaro.