Christian Castagno is an eleven time nominated and three time Grammy winning music producer. Growing up in a Gurdjieff School surrounded by esoteric music and sacred dances, early on Chris showed a natural affinity for “the invisible sound that moves all hearts” and at fourteen took up playing various acoustic instruments until he received a Casio CZ-101 synth on his sixteenth birthday and that was that. By the time he turned 20 he had returned to New York City to pursue music and production full time and it was there he was fortunate to get a job at the legendary Manny’s music on 48th street in Manhattan. In this same moment he met Walter Sear who became his mentor and later very generously traded him a 16 track Ampex for a mic preamp so that he could start his own studio because, in the words of Mr. Sear, “how else could I get him to stop pestering me”? From 1997 to 2008 he and fellow producer Danny Blume operated GoodandEvil studio in Brooklyn where they did a wide variety of records ranging from Pop, Jazz, Latin, Hiphop and Electronic music. In 2003 Chris won his first Grammy for engineering with the return of seminal Louisiana favorite Eddie “the Chief” Clearwater. In 2007 Chris and Danny were nominated for best Jazz album with Sex Mob’s “Sexotica- a tribute to Martin Denny” as well as winning a Grammy for “best world music album” with the Klezmatics. In 2008 Chris was again nominated twice for his work on Miguel Bosé’s Papito producing and playing on five of the tracks most notably Morena Mia with Julieta Vanegas, 2007’s most downloaded Latin song on iTunes. In 2010 Chris and his wife Tatiana chose adventure and moved with their son Apolo to the coast of Colombia to a little town hidden away in the jungle called Minca where he is building his studio and event space Sonido Selva. Most recently he was nominated for both North American and Latin Grammys for his work on Bomba Estereo’s “Hayo” as well as nominations for best global roots album by the Canadian Folk Music Awards for his production and mixing on The Gypsy Kumbia Orchestra’s 2020 album “Velkombak”. In addition to his album production activities Chris has fostered a substantial music and arts community in Minca with concert events as well as expanding his unique approach to teaching technical audio production and a broad range of related topics such as the math and physics of harmonic series, pitch and perception, acoustics and musicology. A veteran of over two hundred records his credits include work with artists such as Iggy Pop, Bomba Stereo, Arcade Fire, Kombilesa Mi, Los Gaiteros de Ovejas, Miguel Bose, Systema Solar, Ru Paul, Naty Botero, Felix da Housecat and many others.
Tatiana is originally from the coast of Colombia and later grew up in Medellin where she went to school for fashion design. In 2001 she found her true passion; the art of nourishing people with her food while expressing her unique taste and style. In 2006 she opened a catering business in NYC serving natural fusions of Colombian, Mexican, Indian and Asian food. As the cofounder of Sonidoselva as well as Minca's first vegetarian restaurant, Duni Cafe, Tati spends her time developing Duni, designing spaces and is a curator for Sonidoselva's arts and artist programs. She also works with the different communities of the Indigenous people of La Sierra to help them to spread their message of conservation of nature and respect for our mother earth.
While Li Saumet is best known for her explosive performances in front of Bomba Estereo she is also deeply committed to the preservation of Colombia's folkloric traditions and cultural ecosystems. You might think of Liliana as Sonidoselva's musical ambassador and we are proud to be working together on a new educational project called Musicaminca. Musicaminca is a higher education initiative that will create cross cultural and musical exchange between the coast of Colombia and international Music and Arts education institutions. Liliana and Sonidoselva are very excited about facilitating a significant evolution in the accessibility of music and arts education here on the coast of Colombia as well as providing a platform for the international music community to engage with traditional Colombian folkloric musicians.
Jwikamey Torres is member of the Indigenous Arhuaco people of La Sierra. He shares our dream of interdependent communities exchanging their knowledge and learning with one another. He trusts that together we can make positive change in the Indigenous territories in La Sierra by creating harmonious examples what such a community could look like. Jwikamey is a part of a group of young Indigenous people here who are interested in building alliances based on mutual respect, peace and a deep love for our mother Earth. Though he is a representative of a new generation, Jwikamey is very focused on the transmission of a very old idea his culture has preserved for millennia; that we must take care of nature first and foremost if we are to create the peaceful and happy co-existence that people all over the world are now seeking. We couldn't be happier have him working with us here at Sonidoselva where he functions as a representative of his community and is helping us develop cultural exchange programs with some of the more difficult to access Arhuaco communities in the highest reaches of La Sierra.
Bettina Castagno grew up in and around New York within a family steeped in the culinary arts. She worked in the tristate area for more than 20 years as a career chef, caterer, and restaurant manager. Specializing in gourmet catering, Bettina became known for her extensive knowledge of ethnic foods, spices, wild herbs, and medicinals. She creates dishes that combine exotic flavors into a presentation enhanced by unique ambiences.
Bettina who lives in the borderlands region of northern New Mexico adjacent to the Navajo nation where she owns and operates Naked Soul Indigenous Arts with her Navajo partner Mark Nez Jr. Dedicated to the highest quality authentic, handmade Navajo jewelry and other Indigenous Arts, she has been buying, selling, trading and collecting for more than 20 years. Bettina is also quite active in her community, she is the founder of Two Rivers Camp Indigenous Mutual Aid Collective, an outgrowth of her years of activism and dedication to Indigenous rights and causes. Her efforts began with running a traveling kitchen providing nutritious meals for those on the front lines at Indigenous resistance camps for environmental justice such as the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline, among others. Bettina expanded her efforts to serve Indigenous people in need throughout North America through Two Rivers Camp, which she runs out of her New Mexico homestead. During the Covid19 pandemic, she and her volunteers, donors, supporters and allies provided much needed support for Indigenous people and their elders as well as foster children, and those with challenging health issues in marginalized communities on and off reservations. Bettina believes in the wisdom gained through much time spent with Indigenous elders that the preservation and support of the lifeways of Indigenous people is vital to the repair of Earth, creation and her people.
Janni Benavides is a musician, composer, educator, illustrator and storyteller. She is currently dedicated to the development of new pedagogical tools for environmental education and she has worked toward this for 17 years as co-director of the Fundación Mágica Música. Janni co-founded Jacana Jacana, her environmental education project in which she, her husband Andres Alvarez and their daughter Julia promote environmental awareness from their home in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. With Jacana Jacana she has created a variety of artistic content, such as songs, illustrated books, educational videos, concerts and workshops. This project tells the stories of tropical ecosystems and their biodiversity and are made in collaboration with foundations and people working for the conservation of these endangered species. Jacana Jacana has also worked with different schools in the low buffer zones of the Sierra and other educational centers of interest. Jacana Jacana has also joined the National Geographic storytelling projects and went to Washington D.C. to participate in the NatGeo’s Explorers festival 2018 and again in 2019 for the NatGeo education summit that year. Today Janni continues her work with Jacana and together with Sonidoselva will be pursuing many new children’s music and education initiatives in the new year.
Andres Alvarez is a musician, producer, educator and audiovisual artist. Andrés's work has focused on developing pedagogical methodologies for environmental and human education within vulnerable communities in Colombia. He has been making use of music and art as a bridge to connect these communities to a broad range of educational possibilities. His work is focused on two fundamental axes: One as co-founder and content creator for Jacana Jacana, a multidisciplinary project for environmental education, which integrates ecology, music, reading and art with audiovisual techniques. The other is as a participant in the National Geographic Storytelling projects as founder and co-director of the Fundación Mágica Música. This foundation now has more than 16 years of experience in musical pedagogical projects for children and in research projects on traditional Colombian folkloric music. Sonidoselva looks forward to working with Andres in the new year on a variety of concerts and musical projects.
Co-founder of the Sol de Minca Nature Reserve. Environmentalist and nature conservationist. He specializes in permaculture design and Bio-construction, Fedi brings 8 years of experience experimenting and developing his expertise in natural construction here in Minca and the spectacular results he has gotten with his project Sol de Minca speak for themselves. In charge of the overall management and planning of the sustainable development of Sonidoselva, we're looking forward to working with Federico creating an exciting new sustainable future here in Minca.
Sergio Cardozo H. Musician and composer from the city of Bogotá, who since childhood has been interested in the languages of sound, art and creative expressions. More than 20 years ago he began musical studies in institutions and universities in Colombia and Argentina even as he sought his own way of learning and understanding musical creation, approaching it from personal curiosity and continuous desire for sonic exploration. His musical interests include genres such as cumbia, jazz, hip hop, rock, urban, among others. He has participated as a composer and producer for puppet works and audiovisual productions, two of them from El Castillo del Gato company, winners of District Creation scholarships in the city of Bogotá. He has also been part of pop, rock and hip hop projects with which he has had the opportunity to play on various stages, among which the massive Hip Hop al Parque festival in Bogotá stands out. He is currently immersed in the exciting field of music production and studies here at Sonidoselva as well as working on a range of projects here as an engineer in the studio with Christian.
British-Colombian composer and recent singer-songwriter Vanessa Forero AKA Vanessa James has been composing since childhood. She first started scoring professionally for film and television 2004 and her work has been broadcast worldwide from the silver screens to home televisions, receiving many accolades for her work including winning best score at the Hollywood mini cinema awards. Vanessa is an accomplished performer and clearly comfortable on stage, she has served as keyboardist for various touring bands and artists since age thirteen. As well Vanessa has become deeply involved in ceremonial music and she has played many healing ceremonies, spiritual gatherings and sound journeys as part of her own spiritual path to reconnect with nature. In 2016 Beth Orton selected her for her UK show and a writers residency and this inspired her to expand her artistic identity. She picked up the guitar and started singing for the first time, learning how to produce, playing all the parts and she started to make her own records. and this has become a passion for her. She's also a best-selling co-author of the NY and Sunday Times best-seller: 'The Girl With No Name' which tells the story of her mother, a case of a feral child who was kidnapped and abandoned to live alone in the Colombian jungles with only monkeys as company. National Geographic turned the book into the documentary:“Woman Raised By Monkeys”, for which Forero scored part of the music. Leaving behind London and Brighton, she now lives in Minca, a mountain village in Colombia, where she’s building her new life. Currently Vanessa is engaged in several film scores whilst making a record with long-time friend and renowned producer Richard Blair as well as working on the writing of a sequel to her mother’s first book. Vanessa is a versatile and talented musician who brings a great deal of real world experience to our music programs here and Sonidoselva is delighted to be working with her.
Fabian Diaz is a guitarist, composer and educator with more than fifteen years experience who has taught at such institutions as the Higher Academy of the Arts Bogota, Gentil Montaña Foundation of Musical Studies and chaired Jazz studies in the Central University in Bogota. Known as a talented improvisor and professional studio musician, he is also a veteran touring musician having played live with Altiplano de Chile, Amerindios de Colombia and many others. We’re very happy to be working with Fabian this year to bring serious jazz instruction to Minca.
Paula Rodríguez has been living and working in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta and the Colombian Caribbean for the last six years. She attended the University of the Andes where she studied anthropology, history and while traveling in India, gardening. She´s passionate about working with the indigenous people and farmers who live in La Sierra's unique tropical ecosystems. Paul is also a chef and is studying microscopical expressions of life through the use of natural fermentation processes in her cuisine. Her projects at Sonidoselva reflect her belief that sustainable community represents the best strategy for preserving and sustaining life on this planet..