If we want to be strictly technical, “Charm’s” recent win in the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars belongs to its producers (Clark Spencer and Yvett Merino) and directors (Jared Bush and Byron Howard), such as determined by Academy parameters. film arts and sciences.
But a triumph of these dimensions undoubtedly has an extremely positive effect on all those who have been involved in such a project, and that includes Mauro Castillo, the South American singer and trombonist who took part in the film in its English and Spanish versions. which was done in Spanish, playing the role of Félix Madrigal, the cheerful uncle of the protagonist Mirabel.
And there is much more, of course. In addition to being present at the commented and spectacular presentation live on the Dolby Theater stage of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” (the song of “Encanto” which came to place in first position of the coveted worldwide Billboard ), Castillo thus becomes the first Afro-Colombian to occupy the stage of the Oscars.
“Statistically, a lot of special things happened that day, including the fact that no salsa artist had ever been on that stage before,” Castillo told Us in a recent interview as he was still in Southern California. “And less sing a chachachá, which is basically what ‘Bruno’ is. From that side, it is also important that a pace like this has reached there, so that the narrative about Latin culture changes, because it has been a transnational project with global reach due to its success .
“Here in Los Angeles, I met some very cool, very respectful journalists who told me they didn’t know there were ‘Afros’ in Colombia, despite everything Professor Joe Arroyo and the Niche Group did,” added the artist, who was actually part of the aforementioned tropical institution and recorded two albums with it. “In fact, the land they’ve opened up must continue to be cultivated, and it gives others the opportunity to discover aspects of you that they didn’t know, which results in a very cool exchange.”
the good school
As we’ve already noted, Castillo plays Felix in both the Spanish and English versions of the film, which, of course, isn’t always the case with voice actors. “I was born in Cali and studied academic music there; I am an operatic tenor,” he explained. “I learned English by reading textbooks on audio, because I like sound and the devices related to it, like the ones they used in the 60s and 70s, which I try to use in some way by myself.recordings”.
“I lived in Orlando, Florida for four years, but I’m a resident [de los Estados Unidos] for 16 years for what is called ‘extraordinary ability in music’,” he continued. “I didn’t speak English, and at home, the rule was to speak Spanish, so that my children – I have a 16-year-old and a 9-year-old – don’t lose their language. But when it came to the film, which I accessed through ‘open casting’, we made a ‘change’ and I started conversing more in English”.
Beyond his talent as a singer and trombonist, Castillo had experience in the acting profession, since, for example, he was one of the main interpreters of a television “biopic” on the life of the said Joe Arroyo (“El Joe”), for whom he composed a song years ago, and had worked in dubbing, as he was the director of an animated campaign made for the Colombian version of musical reality show ‘X Factor’.
“When I left Niche, I founded a company that made music for the advertising and entertainment industry, while at the same time developing my solo career using my own songs”, continues the Calinien. “All the knowledge I acquired along the way to being able to communicate through art eventually led me there.”
an unexpected version
In reality, Castillo not only performed on the Oscars stage, but also among tables full of world celebrities, because the entire musical act – including the segment in which he had the biggest turnout – started out that way. before reaching the pallet. It must have caused him some fear, as we mentioned.
“Joe Arroyo once said to me, ‘The day your nerves run out, it’s all over.’ There’s always an emotion there, but when you’ve studied you’re consistent and you’ve got experience, you’ve got consistency and you have no problem doing what you have to do.” he explained. “You know you can’t fail, but you’re calm at the same time; and the feeling you show is the one you have always had”.
There were up to three rehearsals before the official show, which let Castillo know that the act finally shown was going to be a “special presentation” of the same theme in which, in addition to the performers present in the film ( like him and Carolina Gaitán), Puerto Rican Luis Fonsi, Mexican-American Becky G and African-American Megan Thee Stallion were going to participate, whose contributions ended up being harshly questioned by many fans of the original song, who expected to see a version much closer to the original.
After the gala, Castillo himself took the negative comments with humor, sharing a meme on his Twitter account in which the well-known design of the horse, which is first masterfully drawn and then with extremely imperfect strokes, was used to divide the segments sung by Colombians and those made by others.
“I understand the music I make, and the music I make is Latin,” the performer told Us after laughing heartily at our mention of her social media post. “But I managed to understand that on these shows, doing special versions of the songs is something usual and very exciting. I understand that they wanted to pay homage to the transcendence that ‘Bruno’ had through the world, and, from this point of view, the Fonsi case even made sense given the fact that Lin-Manuel [Miranda, el compositor de la pieza] He is also of Puerto Rican descent.
progress and setbacks
On a broader level, the Latino community of African descent was rightly celebrated with Ariana DeBose winning Best Supporting Actress for her brilliant role in Steven Spielberg’s version of “West Side Story.” “. On the podium, DeBose noted that she herself was also the first Afro-Latin (non-binary) “queer” to receive an Academy Award.
“The industry is now looking for stories with particular elements that give them color and strength, because the themes that are dealt with inevitably end up being the same,” Castillo summed up. “Our folklore, which is alive and felt in the streets – unlike what happens in other countries – adds something different to these stories; and we can end up being there, contrary to what happens, for example, with Colombian soap operas, where there are no Afros, whereas, when you go out in the streets of my country, you see a completely different reality.
During the post-Academy Awards celebrations, our interviewee chatted with African-American stars, like Serena Williams, the famous tennis player who appears in “King Richard”, and Wesley Snipes, the idol of the Hollywood action genre. “Wow, there are five million Afro-Colombians? I can not believe it ! he told me, Castillo recalled. “All of this has been a great opportunity for them to discover us and them too.”
It was impossible to close the topic of the Oscars without mentioning Will Smith’s resounding slap in the face of comedian Chris Rock, which the singer/instrumentalist saw with his own eyes (no pun intended) while attending Dolby. “I in no way justify the violence; neither verbal nor physical,” our interlocutor told us, after taking a few seconds to respond. “I think it is urgent that [Smith y Rock] come together and do an act of reparation and mutual reconciliation”.
“It’s not good what happened there. We have normalized a lot of things, but the world is changing,” he clarified. “I feel like I lost a lot of patience during the pandemic, despite the fact that I have always been a very patient person with my career and with people. But I didn’t become violent; I don’t think it’s justified.”
Castillo considers the violence exerted when one is a person of great influence within a certain group to be particularly dangerous. “I think in the world there are people who are more compatible with each other and it’s a personal matter, because beyond race, creed or political position, one should not override anyone, even if they think or say something different from what you think, “he assured. “It’s something of the conscience, of the soul, and therefore, it does not has no color.”
“Right now, because of what happened, I can also be influential, and I try to bring my culture and what I represent everywhere,” he added. “From this point of view, respect must always be present, despite the fact that something like that is more difficult these days, because the networks are much more activated by individuality, which particularly affects artists, who must be self-aware all the time.”
Feet on the ground
To counteract the negative effects that popularity and fame can bring, Castillo (owner of a joviality and simplicity that becomes quite evident when spoken to) sometimes ponders what his purpose in this life is.
“I remember then that I studied music, that my intention is to communicate ‘bacanería’ [buena onda]generate other types of thoughts and have a good time or reflect in some way with a song or scene [en la que participo]”, he claimed.
In this sense, he feels moved by what happened to him a few days ago at the Warner Bros studio. when he found himself in front of a girl with Down syndrome for whom he sang and danced a fragment of “Bruno”. “The moment went viral because his dad, who is a producer for a radio station in Wisconsin, uploaded it to the networks,” he recalled. “Sometimes you don’t have to produce as much or pretend to be something you’re not to reach a lot of people. And reaching a lot of people is also necessary, obviously, because the Oscar applause doesn’t feed you.”
On the same side, Castillo, who has already recorded three albums as a soloist, is moving towards the next stage of his career, immediately embodied by the release of a new single, “Chacha Me”, whose name aptly alludes to the musical genre practiced in “Bruno”.
“I see that people are dancing a lot [el tema de ‘Encanto’]but it’s not very clear what it is”, resumed the artist. “It’s a slow rhythm, which makes it less difficult to dance, especially when you compare it to Richie’s salsa Rey and Bobby Cruz. This new song, which I recorded in Spanish and English, says that with the cha cha chá you can get rid of the “pods” [cosas] that you don’t like and stick with what works for you down the road.
That’s not to say he’s going to leave out romantic salsa and ‘de coup’, where he resorts to elements of Pacific music and other regional forms that give his sound a distinctive air. “I also have compositions more oriented towards World Music, because I like my albums to be varied and fun,” he commented. “For its part, ‘Chacha Me’ has much more modern elements, but without falling into reggaeton, because I really don’t like that”.