Maui Arts & Entertainment

Mateus Kotok, Musical Medicine Man

March 29, 2011, 8:00 PM HST
* Updated March 30, 1:51 PM
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By Maesyn

Maui is a vortex for genius.

Artists have always been drawn to its inspiring landscape. Many are the visionaries who walked away from the mainstream rat race to plant their feet firmly on tropical soil.

One such gem is Maui local, Mateus Kotok.

Mateus Kotok

An eccentric, endearing ball of enthusiasm and musical passion, Mateus represents the quintessential artist. He has been on the cutting edge of music production for several decades, flying all around the world while rooted in Maui to produce tracks for internationally acclaimed artists.


“The music is medicine for the people,” he said, hopping around like an excited schoolboy as he dances to the beat he just made.


“It can transform your mood and make you feel good instantly and forget about your worries. As artists we have a responsibility to be clear when we’re capturing a sound image. We’re not just recording sound, we’re literally recording energy!”

Passionate about all forms of musical expression, he takes time out from his studio to perform around the island. Currently working on his 24th solo album, he takes time out from his prolific productivity, beautiful wife and two gorgeous daughters, to produce a handful of local artists.

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“I think every good song starts with a beat that stands alone,” explains Mateus. “If you can listen to that beat by itself and it makes you feel good, then you’re going to feel good about the song that is built on top of that rhythm.”

A wide-smiled beat master, Mateus has his own organic methods to mix his roots lifestyle with his electric habits. For decades, Mateus has been sampling the drum sounds from every sweet sounding kit he has encountered.

Now he has amassed his own personal library of organic drum tones, from kicks to snares to high hats. He assembles these like a surgeon into beats that sound organic yet electronic at the same time.

Starting with a beatbox, he replaces each mouth sound with a parallel drum kit tone. These rhythmic patterns become the drum loop.

With lightning-fast editing skills, the ability to play nearly every instrument, and a creative storehouse with unlimited styles of music packed away in his brain, Mateus is a force to be reckoned with.

Generally, a client brings him their song concept, and he shapes and molds it into a complete musical idea, with their guidance.

One recent song was birthed from the impetus of a single bass line. From there, Mateus will get a sense of the style that the artist is trying to capture. He breaks out his bass, his guitars, his keyboard and his uncanny ability to make addictive beats at the drop of a hat.

Sitting beneath the vaulted ceilings of his Haiku living room, he leans back in his chair and takes a break from editing the hip hop drum track that he has been working on all afternoon.

His eyes beam and glow, his smile is thoughtful and infectiously childlike. His daughter, Anjah, hops on and off of his lap, showering him with kisses of adoration.

“True success is sharing your gifts. Looking back on your life and thinking you’ve been a good person,” he cuddles Anjah and giggles.

Mateus is full of clever creative tricks that make his productions sound magical. “People usually find me,” he says. “They hear something I’ve created and they just know.”

Mateus and his banjo

It’s easy to see why. He turns up his speakers and samples a playlist of songs that he has produced for various artists. Each infectious beat unfolds like a flower, spanning the spectrum of styles and genres. Every last one is completely different.

Mateus started recording albums at the age of 17, moving from folk, to punk, to rock, to funk, to reggae, to hip hop. He developed his own unique style that blended all of his influences early on.

One particular style that he was experimenting with caught the ear of Atlantic Records. He was offered a deal when he was 20.

“They wanted a funk chunk style of music like one of my songs, but they wanted me to commit to make all of my songs sound just like that. I said there was no way I’d do it and I walked away.”

It’s that kind of integrity to the music that has always made Mateus ahead of his time. He has been on the cutting edge of blending and fusing styles since before the World Music genre was ever declared.

He is one of those rare geniuses whose sheer love of rhythm and sound infuses all of his music with sheer magic.

With lyrics that tout principles of mental deprogramming and freedom of the mind, Mateus’ music is a treasure trove for seekers of life’s joy, who want to dance, be filled with hope, and shift their thoughts.

He has the uncanny ability to take a single simple musical idea, and expand it into a genius science experiment. He is an artists’ dream producer, leaving ample room for co-creation and visioning.

To find samples of Mateus’ inspiring music or to contact him about a collaboration, visit his website.

You can reach him at [email protected]

*If you have suggestions for the Mauinow Arts & Entertainment Scene, please email [email protected] Aloha!

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