Eric Cardeno, DJ Wundrkut, is survived by blood, spirit, and chosen family. A multiple-time city, provincial, and national DMC Champion, he co-founded and taught at TableTutors DJ Academy, inspired by the art of djaying and community growth. For Eric, lessons were not only taught on the turntables, he cared deeply about human development as well. With his sudden disappearance last summer, the community search that ensued, his loss, our loss, and subsequent ceremonies and celebrations, he connected folks throughout the lower mainland and across the planet with his gentle energy.
To commemorate this anniversary, I interviewed his wife, Niki Cardeno, who now works with TableTutors, and his long-time friend and collaborator, Paul Skratch. Shoutout to his brother Michael—our schedules unfortunately didn’t allow us to connect—who created the Wundrkut Forever website, and to many who teach me, directly and indirectly, about Eric’s life and legacy.
Since Eric’s passing, Niki Cardeno (NC) has practiced on the turntables—taught by May (DJ Maiah), who’s continuing the Ladies First classes Eric initiated.
Niki Cardeno (NC)
DJaying is one way for me to heal, to feel Eric when I’m playing. You can live together but be doing separate things at home – this was something we shared. My progress was slower because I’d often dabble. When he passed, I felt him say, don’t stop, keep going, keep practicing, spend more time at the school.
I have to work at it. One class, I couldn’t do what May was asking. Then, it was like Eric put his hands on my hands on the record, and there was a click in my head. Suddenly I could hear both songs at once. I repeated the task.
May came over: what happened?
Eric and I just had our Ghost moment!
Niki now plays shows, under the moniker DJ Wundrkutie.
The name shows there’s ways to honour your loved one and be an individual while holding that. I’m proud of the person I became for having survived such a traumatic experience.
I asked Paul Skratch (PS) to surprise me with something about Eric.
Among many things, he was a founder of portable scratching culture. Raiden Fader reached out, sending a fader prototype for a portable turntable and Eric got on it. I started filming him all over, and he gave feedback. People would always gather around.
This reminded me of a video of Eric scratching on a portable turntable in the Andes.
PS: The peace on his face! – and I saw he showed kids there how to scratch. He had courage to do his thing in a way that invites people in.
We had many conversations about what it would look like. Eric has always been such a selfless person, who thought first of the culture, others, knowledge-sharing, giving shine outward.
On the Saturday we centred him more, with poster board displays about him, a tribute video, and performances by artists he had worked with.
I reached out to artists he was cool with in the industry. They sent me videos the next day. The first I hit up, the first to send back, was D-Styles of Beat Junkies and Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Eric’s hero and mentor. He talked about wishing he reached out more as a friend, beyond their turntable conversations and how Eric taught him that you can come up as a battle DJ but also be driven to share what you’ve learned, the lineages it’s from.
Sunday was more about the next generation. Some artists had relationships with him and made reference to him in their performances, but you wouldn’t know unless you knew.
One young person, not yet a teenager, had applied for the Wundrfund [an accessibility fund at TableTutors] without his parents even knowing … he had his first public performance on Wundrkut Weekend.
Even after his passing, when we want to centre him, Eric reminds us it’s always been bigger than him. To feature performances including people who never met him, that’s his influence, even now.
It’s a learning thing, too: what I should work on next? I’ve been in design mode: the Wundrkut Weekend gallery and tribute. Now, I’m in music mode, I have his computer, to work on his unfinished music.
Our albums were meant to be a trilogy. Demonio focused on the darker side of self, Apex on the lighter side. The third record will balance both. We felt, there’s each side, there’s the full of us, let’s represent that.
Eric and his peers would watch VCR tapes over and over to learn a single move. Many DJs actively hid their movements. That’s what’s so beautiful at TableTutors. There’s no gatekeeping- we’re passionate about sharing the craft.
If you were a scratcher locally or across the world, you knew who he was. Now, we want people to know his kindness and dedication.
His passing was not an end. It’s only a shift in how he can support community, from a new version of Eric that is still very present. His work doesn’t stop because he’s not walking this earth – it’s energy: it doesn’t end. We’re working with that change of his presence. And DJaying is our ceremony.
In honour of Eric Cardeno’s longstanding commitment to children, their future, and the arts community, the Newest team will make a donation to the Wundrfund and encourage you to do so if you have the ability to. Information can be found here.