"I asked myself, 'What do I do with the contemporary sounds that are mine, and this music that is my language and is deep inside of me?'"

Por Jennifer Mota
Agosto 29, 2019
Mateo Kingman
Credit: CHICA

The idea that one's ability to speak Spanish is what makes a person truly Latinx still persists in certain corners of the world and internet, despite the fact that the Latinx community is endlessly complex and many other languages are part of the Latinidad. Mateo Kingman, who grew up in the Ecuadorian Amazon, is one of several rising artists challenging this outdated notion via his music, which embraces indigenous languages and styles.

Growing up, the 24-year-old musician categorized the traditional Ecuadorian music played in the house as his mother's music, not his own. But once he began immersing himself in Shuar culture and Amazonian mythologies, the singer-songwriter realized the impact the Amazon had on his taste after all. “I began to realize that it is a language and that [it] is within me,” he tells People CHICA. “I asked myself, ‘What do I do with the contemporary sounds that are mine, like urban and electronic music, and this music that is my language and is deep inside of me?'” The questioning led to his musical exploration.

Kingman's sound is influenced by the variety of native villages to which he's traveled. “The search was figuring out how to incorporate external, global elements like high-hat drops or reggaeton rhythms.” In late July, he released his sophomore album, Astro; its first single “Religar” is the most special to the artist. “It has all the elements of the album — a little urban and trap,” he notes. “It talks about when you return from a harsh journey in which you lost yourself and you return to the land, and when you return, your parts unite and you return to who you are.” At the end of this spiritual exploration, the introspection pays off. “After discovering the light in this journey, you come back to who you are. You're back on this land but you are stronger, you're stepping harder,” he says. “That's ‘Religar' — recreating yourself.”

Astro is an album that demands attention from beginning to end, both because of its riveting sound and its deep lyrical content and themes. “It's a conceptual album,” Kingman explains, with heavy messages tied to environmental issues that also affect the Amazonian people. “It's an album with intense messaging, but it's guided in a liberal journey. You have to let yourself ride that journey.”

Watch “Religar” below: