Matuto is widely known as a Brazilian slang term for someone from the backcountry, but it is also the name of the New York–based Brazilian-bluegrass band led by Clay Ross. Known for its unorthodox blend of Brazilian folk forms like forró, maracatu, and coco with American bluegrass and spirituals, the band’s name is an indicator of their multicultural sound. Matuto performs its first Neighborhood Concert on November 1 at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, so we chatted with Clay about the group’s latest album The Devil and The Diamond, its current European tour, and its upcoming concert with us.
What was the concept behind your latest album The Devil and The Diamond?CR: The album is about the internal struggle to realize one’s potential. The devil is what’s keeping us from our best selves, which is the diamond we have the potential to become. That dichotomy, that tension exists in all of us. In a loose way, this album outlines the journey we take when we wrestle with the devil and find the diamond.
What was the most memorable part of your recent UK/European tour? Did you discover any new Brazilian or Brazilian-inspired music while traveling?CR: We had a night off in London and we read online that there was a forró party happening. We decided to go and check it out and ended up having a blast. We danced, sat in with the band, and formed instant friendships with this whole new community. It’s amazing how forró is finding popularity all over the world and not just with Brazilians.
Project YEAH, a Mandala art project that features teenagers led by Roy Secord, will be creating a live mural in response to your music during your performance at The Bronx Museum. What excites you most about this visual element?CR: I love the idea of mixing media in the context of a concert or dance party. Especially since a lot of our music is instrumental, this can give the audience multiple points of entry into the music.
What inspired you to offer workshops on Brazilian folk, American roots music, and musical democracy?CR: As cultural ambassadors through the US State Department, we’ve traveled all over the world sharing our music and our culture. Back in the US, audiences aren’t as familiar with the Brazilian styles that we’ve embraced, so this is a great way for us to share our passion for the music and to give people a better understanding of what we do.
Watch Matuto's music videos:
"The Devil and The Diamond"
Matuto Promo Video