By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – While many come to Rio de Janeiro and immediately see them selves pitching up here, working and sustaining a life in the Cidade Maravilhosa is more difficult than most imagine. Playing gigs in Rio for over seven years, American DJ and current Rio resident Tee Cardaci recently spoke with The Rio Times about his experiences living and working in the city.
“I first came to Rio in 2008,” Cardaci told The Rio Times.”I had a gig at the now defunct Dama de Ferro and I had a friend getting married so there was a whole crew of us from San Francisco that came down to party. It was an amazing time and, basically, I didn’t want to go home. Rio got into my blood, as they say.”
A California native, Cardaci’s career was born from a love of music and from a hobby of collecting vinyl records. “I started collecting records when I was really young, like 7 or 8,” said Cardaci. “My mom would let me buy a 45″ at the local shop if I did well on a test at school or something.”
“My dad was collecting too,” he adds, “so I’d tag along with him to record shows every now and then. He’d look for his thing and I’d wander off looking for punk 45″s, mostly. The DJing thing was just a natural progression from that… playing school dances and house parties at first, just because I had the best records.”
Currently spinning vinyl to this day when he can, Cardaci says he purchased his first turntables and mixer in 1991. “I’d play everything from Manchester acts like New Order and Happy Mondays, disco and early house records from Chicago, a bit of hip hop and even some industrial like Nitzer Ebb and Front 242.”
“I’ve always been eclectic in my taste, I guess,” he continued, “but it all started just by being obsessed with music and records, really. Being a DJ wasn’t really a thing back then and I didn’t have any peers to learn from so I sort of figured it out on my own.”
After he discovered raves, a music scene that was thriving in the early 90s, Cardaci says that everything changed. He slowly began DJing professionally, a career move that eventually led him to Rio de Janeiro and his first show at Dama de Ferro.
When asked about finding work in the city, Cardaci said, “I mistakenly thought gigs would come easy after that. It was tough to make a name here at first. Everything I had done previously didn’t really matter. I had to start over, essentially, which was humbling and good for me, I think. Eventually though, I met up with my future Botafogo Social Club brothers and we began doing our own nights, which were really something special. Over the course of four years, we put on some really amazing events.”
The Botafogo Social Club consisted of five foreign DJs, Cardaci, Dan Markham, Mike Frugaletti, Jan Roldanus and Doug Gray. Throwing parties in the neighborhood of Botafogo and around the city, the five eventually became regulars at Alto Vidigal and a well known DJ collective.
When asked how he eventually came to be a resident of the city, Cardaci said, “I was doing the six-month tourist visa thing for a while, leaving for three months to gig around Europe, three months back in the States and then back to Rio. It was amazing, but it made it hard to have anything resembling a stable life.”
“Then, a few years ago, I met the love of my life and, long story short, we got married,” Cardaci continued. “It’s actually a really long and complicated story, involving loads of Brazilian bureaucracy, but I prefer to just remember the romantic parts. So that obviously opened the door for me to live here full time, more or less. I still travel a lot, but at least I can come and go on my own terms now.”
Cardaci is currently touring the world with his last stop in Brazil before heading to Europe for the month of June, coming up on May 9th at Pacha in Buzios. Also working with DJ Mike Mikalsky, as part of a back-to-back DJ project, Mikalsky&Cardaci, and preparing to start a new project, Bocayuva Gourmet Eventos, with Maria Antonia Bocayuva.
Cardaci’s advice for DJs considering a move to Rio is; “It’s tough. If you do it, do it because you love doing it so f**king much you have to do it! If you stay true to that, the money may come. Maybe. There’s better ways to make money but not many better ways to have a good time.”
“I would tell other DJs starting out to find a crew of like-minded friends and make their own parties,” Cardaci continued. “Focus on the music. Focus on creating a great vibe for your guests. Figure out what your sound is and stay true to it. Don’t worry about the other things. Mostly though, you have to do it for the love.”