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Home > Research > Folklife > Cuatro Maker: Diomedes Matos
Tina Nguyen with zither
Photo by Robert Stone

Diomedes Matos has been referred to as the "master's master" cuatro maker. The cuatro, a distinctive 10-string guitar known as the national instrument of Puerto Rico, is played by jibaro musicians from the mountainous inner regions of the island. Matos was surrounded by instrument makers where he grew up in the Puerto Rican village of Camuy. By the age of 12 he had built his first cuatro and from that time has worked to perfect the construction of a wide-variety of traditional stringed instruments. Today his cuatros are sought after and played by the premier Puerto Rican musicians, including the world-renowned Yomo Toro.

An unselfish teacher, Matos has participated in the New Jersey Folk Arts Apprenticeship Program. Popular singer Paul Simon asked Matos to build him an instrument and accompany him on the soundtrack for the Broadway show The Capeman. Matos continues to recognize both the practical and spiritual importance of the instrument. He says: "I've come to understand that strumming the cuatro once has the power to attract and unite the people of Puerto Rico and even other cultures. The cuatro has at least three hundred years of history to the people of Puerto Rico and like many other people have said before, the cuatro to me is like the flag."

The National Endowment for the Arts is the original source of this information.
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