Couches lined the walls of the room, surrounding Tea Time's DJ table as if he were putting on a show. His hands moved quickly, skillfully from the computer to the record as heads bobbed with excitement to the hip-hop beat of his scratches.
(teatime01.jpg Photo courtesy Tea Time)
As a figurehead hip-hop and funk music advocate in the Latin world since the early '90s, Camilo "Tea Time" Castaldi has reached out to various eclectic audiences here in Santiago and around the world. This reputation drove me to see him live at the swanky Moloko Groove Cafe in Providencia, where the Santiago-based DJ played a variety of great funk and old hip-hop, along with sporadic freestyles from a flutist as well as his own. With his knowledge of music, years of experience in the industry, and an uncanny ability to put on amazing performances, Castaldi is working harder than ever these days with the release of his solo rap debut album, 1, which hit music stores in Santiago in December.
(teatime03.jpg Photo courtesy Tea Time)
Born and raised in Germany by a Chilean mother, Castaldi was influenced by the emerging hip-hop scene in Europe. His passion for rhyming was born at a young age when he made his first rhyme at 9 years old, he claims. When he and his family moved to Santiago in 1990, Castaldi carried his love for the music to Chile, just as the style was beginning to emerge on the local music scene.
Castaldi quickly made his way onto the music scene with Los Tetas, a funk/hip-hop band he and three other musicians formed in the early '90s. The group scored early success as its debut album Mama Funk went gold in 1995. As vocals and scratch, Castaldi added to Los Tetas' eclectic musical style by rapping in three languages--English, Spanish and German--in several of their songs.
Los Tetas has dissipated over time and ultimately fell apart around 2004, but their reputation seems to persevere as many Chileans still appreciate the innovational band that introduced funk and hip-hop to Chile's music scene.
(teatime04.jpg Photo courtesy Tea Time)
Now he's moving in his own direction as a solo rap artist, but Castaldi still stays in touch with the world of funk as a member of the band Funk Attack. Castaldi's music career keeps him busy these days with solo shows, Funk Attack shows and weekly DJ gigs in the Santiago area. In the making of 1, Castaldi even took a few trips to the United States for recording sessions in New York City and Los Angeles, where he worked with rapper Mopreme Shakur, stepbrother of Tupac Shakur.
While he looks to some bigger rappers like Too Short for inspiration, Tea Time doesn’t misconstrue his style to fit into the mainstream scene. His lyrics address a wide range of topics, from his past in Germany to his views of the present world.
"What I want to say [in my music] evokes a vision. Como un viaje por mis palabras, como si fuera un cuadro, una pintura. ("Like a journey through my words, as if it was a painting.") Yeah, that's what I'm saying, I'm like a painter. But not just pictures: there is a meaning to my story."
For Tea Time, it's about the music, the lyrics--not just an empty image. "I don’t need the bling-bling, the gold chains, the diamonds. I've got that on the inside."