How to samba in the face of success

Marco Castillo, the Brazilian multi-instrumentalist, has won over Canada and the sound of his fans’ applause has made him a cultural reference.

By Flávia Berredo de Menezes

“You build your happiness and carry it with you”. This is the philosophy of the Carioca, with a Bachelor in Music. Embraced as an icon by Canadians in Winnipeg, he has been at the “top number 1” of the university radios for many weeks after recording the CD “Brazilian Season”. The first work by this artist was such a success that it turned out to be the beginning of a spectacular success story. As the leader of the band “Brazilian Beats”, one of the most sought after bands in the multicultural jazz capital of Canada, he released the CD “Trip to Brazil” in 2011. It was nominated as World Recording of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards.

In an interview with Wave Plus, Marco Castillo (48) shows his green-yellow enthusiasm which influences many local artists to contribute to the spread of Brazilian music and culture.

 How did your passion with music begin?
Castillo: I had contact with music early on as my father was one of the members of Trio Irakutan and had recorded many albums. This passion became a form of expression when I got my first guitar, in reality it was a requinto (a typical instrument of Mexican trios such as “três ases” and “los três Reyes” (one of my father’s references). I lived in Guatemala with my mother at this time and when I was 12 years old, some older friends would rehearse in the garage and as I was always there and I started learning the first chords. At 14 I started a trio with two friends and the repertoire varied from Santana to Rush and also Chic Corea, Billy Cobham, Jeff Beck, etc.

 What are your musical influences?
Castillo: I am sure that the music I listened to as a child influenced my brain in some chemical way that, at that time, I was not aware of. In my compositions I can identify some of those influences. I always admired instrumental music. I listened to a lot of jazz fusion and rock such as Deep Purple, Led, Van Halen and progressive groups from Europe. The African influence in the Brazilian culture and music are very intense and is something that makes us different from the other countries in America, because Brazil was the last country to abolish slavery and over 10 times more Africans were taken to Brazil than were taken to the USA.

 What do you like about Brazilian music and what is the Canadians’ response to your work?
Castillo: What amazes me most is the complexity of the mixture of cultures that we have had since the European invasion to the forced migration of the slaves. This fusion manifests itself in the culture and music and in the case of continental Brazil, in a very intense way, complex and unique. This is enchanting and at the same time intriguing and profoundly inspiring.

People have really liked my work and this is obviously motivating, the nomination of my recent CD for an award is a good sign. It is gratifying being recognized in Canada for my music.

The receptiveness of Brazilian music is very good, Canadians are very polite and respectful, and I feel honoured to represent our culture here through my music. Education makes all the difference in a society.

 Speaking of “Canadians”, what made you move to Canada? When did you get here?
Castillo: Watching my daughter grow and as I am a musician and seeing the cultural aspect and the education from a different angle than most, I decided to make a change and create a better opportunity for her and for us. You know that saying “Brazil is the country of the future?” I waited for this promised future that never arrived and the best thing I did was to look for it. It wasn’t easy. The whole process took a year and a half, thousands of papers, the uncertainty of risking everything without a guarantee. I got here in 2006 and I have worked a lot to make my own space, but I am a very determined person and I like to work.

…when they ask me if it is worth it to live here I say it depends on the person, there are people who are not happy anywhere. I am happy here. I think that you build your happiness and carry it with you.”

 How was your first show here?
Castillo: My first show here was very curious, my sister Miriam had a belly dancing group and was getting ready for a show when she informally asked me to help her out, “you can play a song or two”, she said, then introduced me to Myron Marteens, a percussionist who had already lived in Brazil. Through him I met bass player Jay Taylor and even though I had just arrived, I was trying to make connections, and I answered an ad by a very good drummer called Todd Talbot who was looking for a guitarist for a band. As I am a good articulator and I make friends easily, we rehearsed, and there I was introduced to a keyboard player named Suss, and in a short time I had a band. One week before my sister’s show I told her that I had a complete band, which surprised her and she asked “how can that be? I wanted you to play a song or two!”. She had to make some changes on the event schedule and there I was with a new band playing my first show in North America with Canadian musicians.

 How can your fans get your CDs/shows?
Castillo: On my website you can access the CDs via iTunes, but if you write me, I can send them by mail and autograph them (laughs). I am working on a project where I am going to do a show and the idea is to present new great composers of our music, besides new material. The show will be on the 21st of October at Park Theatre and it is to thank the people who support me and like our good music.

 What are the plans for your musical future?
Castillo: Continue composing, producing and expanding the market for my music. Music is my life, while I am alive and on stage. Sometimes I think that even if I won a million dollars I would not abandon music, better yet, if music likes me, it will never abandon me! I have been through many difficult times where I had to stop doing the things that I liked in order to survive. I have worked since I was 13, I studied at a state high school while I worked at the first McDonald’s in South America. I graduated from university with the support of my family, but always working, so work is fundamental and in my case as a musician it is no different, you have to dedicate yourself and honestly fight with courage and determination!

 In relation to Brazilians that are starting outside of Brazil, what message do you have for them?
Castillo: Persevere, take your work seriously, dedicate yourself with persistence and dream big with your feet on the ground. One step at a time, value people; each show is important, no matter if there is a small audience! They went there to hear you, so respect everyone and never judge people by their appearance or by what someone says. Do your job respecting your principles and others. Build solid and trustworthy relationships. I think these assumptions are suited to any profession. Value yourself and respect your work, because this is the only way that others will value you. Try to learn with each new experience. And the last tip which what I have done since the beginning, love what you do. Do it with passion. Believe in yourself and in your dreams and go for them, work.

HOW TO CONTACT MARCO CASTILLO: E-MAIL: [email protected] / PHONE: (204) 296.7705