Cado Dos Santos shares his Brazilian culture with the world through his world music

Ricardo “Cado” Dos Santos plays Brazilian music, but it’s not the kind of Brazilian music you might be imagining. This is not bossa nova or samba; Cado’s music is soulful, gentle, guitar-driven “world music,” as he calls it – a fusion of folk and gypsy jazz, samba and forró.

Cado – also his stage name – is originally from Rio de Janeiro, though his family migrated to San Jose nearly 20 years ago and he has spent most of his adult life in California.

“My mom brought me out here to follow the American Dream,” he says. “Brazil was going through a lot of hardship at the time.”

Brazil is a very different country now than it was then. After more than twenty years under the rule of an authoritarian military junta, its economy was in shambles for more than a decade. Now Brazil has one of the world’s largest economies after instating economic reforms that made it a major world player seemingly overnight.

Still, his early years in Brazil during a time of military dictatorship have had a long-lasting impact on Cado, and on his parents, whose music from their own youth has come to be a huge influence on Cado’s life and music career.

“When you grow up listening to music from your parents you don’t appreciate it until you’re older,” he says. “In Brazil a lot of these artists my mom introduced me were banned. They wrote songs about capitalism and the dictatorship and got exiled from Brazil. They had to flee to Europe because they were singing songs against the government.”

Cado had always loved music since he was a child, having grown up in a family with several musicians. When they moved to California, grunge – especially Nirvana – was the cultural zeitgeist of the moment, and when he borrowed a guitar from a teacher, he fell in love with playing. He begged his mom to buy him a guitar of his own, which she did, “to keep me out of trouble and stay off the street.”

At age 19, Cado, who is entirely self-taught, decided to dedicate himself to music, pouring over books and videos to learn technique as well as the history of the music he grew up with.

“You don’t pay attention to those things when you’re young,” he says. “As I got older, in high school, I started getting curious about Brazilian music. A lot of people in America know bossa nova but are not hip to other rhythms and styles of Brazilian music. Samba is more of the protest music; bossa nova is more romantic. I started asking a lot of questions and doing a lot of research and it kind of blew my mind how music could be so powerful.”

As he dug into the history of Brazilian music and culture he also began composing, initially writing exclusively in Brazilian Portuguese. Now he writes his own version of “world music,” mixing English and Brazilian Portuguese, R&B and Bob Marley-style reggae and ska, samba and folk. “I’ve been categorized because I play Brazilian music, and people call it ‘lounge music’ – like when you get on an elevator and hear bossa nova playing in the background. My goal is to share my culture and break that stereotype.”

Cado has previously released one album and four EPs, and is currently gearing up to release his second album, IMIGRANTE.

Originally the record’s name was Imigrante Solitario, “solitary immigrant,” a title that fit how Cado had been feeling after a tumultuous year that included the end of a relationship and the deaths of several friends.

“The album was supposed to release in the summer, but I paused recording because I didn’t want to approach the studio with that energy,” he says.

It touches on subjects from the American Dream to the “American deception,” as well as love, politics, and the environment.

“I was mainly inspired before the World Cup when Brazilians were protesting,” he explains, the protests instigated by the billions of Brazilian reals of public money being spent on the World Cup, a reaction born out of larger social issues the country is grappling with. “It was amazing to see a million people on the street in a revolution of love, wanting equality and change for everyone. It really touched me because my mom saw that in her teens. It was very moving and inspiring. I started writing this record because of that, and was also influenced by daily life experiences.”

He adds, “It’s not just about Brazil; there were protests going on here as well. It’s a worldwide movement that’s going on. We all want change. We all want a better life for everyone. I’m just hoping my music touches people.”

Cado will embark on a month-long tour in Europe starting November 8 and plans on releasing the new album the first week of January, followed by a tour of North America. IMIGRANTE is a fully independent release, a complete reflection of Cado’s own vision for the sound and production which he is releasing himself after a successful Indiegogo campaign.

“I just wanted to do something very personal. It’s a privilege to be able to share my music with anyone,” he says. “Being a musician is a privilege. No one is obligated to listen to anything. To be fortunate enough to play for people, especially overseas, spreading the message of love and positivity but also sharing the daily challenges and obstacles we go through in life. I’m just hoping to touch people with this record and that people can relate. I just want people to listen to the music and hope that the creativity that I’ve put out actually touches people.”

You can find Cado’s music on his website and Soundcloud. IMIGRANTE will release on iTunes and will be available on CD with a limited edition of 100 vinyl records.