Welcome to another episode from our Brno Expats Have Talent series. Brno is full of talented people, and some of them are not even from the CR – we’re introducing one talented expat at a time!
This month, singer and guitarist José shares his story.
José del Castillo (The Canary Islands) – singer, guitar player and teacher
Watch a short video containing pictures from his trip to Madrid and his song “Abre tus alas” (Open Your Wings) from the solo album he’s currently working on.
How long have you been practising your art?
I’ve been practicing, learning and teaching music since I remember; I grew up in a musical family, my father is a musician and a teacher. I’ve been learning piano, guitar and singing since very young. I had a few big performances as a kid, especially singing with Arafo’s conservatory in Tenerife, where I am from.
In my teens, I stopped my music education for many different reasons, but my love for music didn’t change, and I kept on learning by myself, especially guitar; but I was focused on college, work and other activities; and maybe pushed to other directions. It wasn’t until three years ago, already in Brno, when I decided to put all my energy into music, art and education.
In my home country, my music was part of our parties and celebrations; there was always Jose with his guitar. But I thought that music was for the very few when it comes to doing it professionally… I broke that belief about five years ago while living in Ireland, where I decided what I want to do – write, play and teach music. My passion for teaching and education has increased exponentially in the last years, but has always been part of my life.
Is it your main source of income, or a hobby?
Music is my main source of income right now, especially teaching. I work in a beautiful European project called Brno OnStage, Music Schools for Social Change; and when possible, I have gigs, play at festivals and organise jamming and music events. I also organise music and art workshops and guitar lessons.
How do you find living in Brno as an expat and artist?
I need to start with saying that I love Brno. I’ve been living here for the last four years and a half (it’s the city where I’ve lived the longest since I finished high school). Brno is a city very much open to art, culture, music and education; very open to foreigners and their art and full of opportunities for them. I am so grateful and happy that I came to Brno and stayed this long.
I find Brno the perfect place to start living with your art (as I have). I have never met so many artists from different backgrounds as in Brno, both local and expats.
Brno will always stay in my mind as my beginning, since it was here where I could put together what I wanted to do and start doing it.
Is it easy to practise your art here, what obstacles did you face?
Yes, in general Brno is a perfect place to do music and also for teaching, the European project that I work for (OnStage) is alive thanks to the City of Brno, who got enrolled in the program; I have seen lots of energy, time and resources put into music, art and education from the city council.
Anyway, I think that I myself create most of the obstacles that I face in my career and in my life.
How is the audience in the CR compared to your home country?
It’s very hard to compare for me, since I have developed my professional music career in the CR and have little experience of this back home. But I would say that it is pretty similar, I don’t find any big differences in almost anything between Spain and the Czech Republic, especially when it comes to music and art, because music and art is part of everyone’s life, here and there.
Where do you find inspiration?
My inspiration comes from everyday experience; there are so many things that inspire me, such as nice views, meditation, meaningful conversations, long walks.
I also think that big inspirations come with a big connection with the universe, with the source of life, with yourself… and I found a bit more of this during my last years living in Brno.
Brno and its people have definitely been an inspiration to my art. I constantly meet new artists and musicians. Friends who have given me so much inspiration through their life and art. I also find that Brno is also a very calm city and beautiful to walk around, which I really need for inspiration.
Do you cooperate with other expats or local Czechs in your activity?
Yes, of course, nothing I do would be possible without the help of so many people.
My colleague at OnStage is a Czech man, Rostislav; we are good friends and it is great working with him and the whole team (all locals). The rest of my activities are in collaboration mostly with expats, from Latino America, with a special mention to Fernando and Dana for having La Casa Verde (cafe/bar where I can offer my activities) and to finish with my manager, my girlfriend Lenka, whose support, help and inspiration are a fundamental piece to all my projects.
How can you practise your art now, in the strange covid times?
I would like to start by saying that I don’t like this label of “strange covid times” but rather “strange and authoritarian restrictions times.” I think that it is time to start calling things by their true name.
It has been very hard… We started a programme in September last year with over 50 kids enrolled in our guitar lessons. But shortly after starting, the schools closed and didn’t open for almost the whole school year. I never thought that I would see restrictions on singing in my entire life.
Regarding my other activities, it was a very similar story, cafes closed for months, no live music or events or gatherings.
But for me, the biggest problem was to understand the whole situation and its cause – how something so healthy as singing (what I do) can be forbidden for sanitary reasons is not possible to comprehend for me.
Is there any other area in art that you’d like to explore?
Oh yeah, so many. Everything related to art, spirituality, personal growth… lately I am very interested in economics and sustainability, and would like to spend some time writing and learning how to. But right now, my obsession is about changing the school system; to stop using memorization as a tool for learning and learn from experience, where art and creativity are the tools. To create a place where nobody is forced to learn something and prove that they know it; but to learn what they need to learn, to do what they want to do.
In the meantime, I continue writing my music and hopefully will have my first solo album soon; and I am looking forward to starting more projects related to music education and music creation.
What did you choose for your live input of this article and why?
Two summers ago, I did a busking trip from Brno to Madrid; it was a beautiful challenge that changed my life. I did a video with pictures from the trip and one of my songs “Abre tus alas” (Open Your Wings). I wanted to show a song from my first album (work in process) and this trip was very important for me and my music career.
Photos courtesy by José del Castillo