By Nainika Vaidya, news correspondent
Renowned Puerto Rican percussionist Henry Cole will perform his show “Powerful Fusion” at the Villa Victoria in the South End after discussing his career, experience in the music world, technique and more at a free master class at Northeastern Crossing this Friday, Oct. 7.
“Drummers are welcome and I love talking drums, but my mission is to express the music,” Cole said. “I could talk about touring, discipline, routine. I’m gonna play a few drum solos here and there to keep people awake, maybe.”
When invited to perform at the event with his band, Cole said he felt prepared because of his experience with different kinds of music from jazz and hip-hop to folk and salsa.
“My mission with this group is to bring a fresh perspective to the table,” Cole said. “A project based on Puerto Rican music and how we, as a culture that is so mixed, can blend all these influences into one place. It’s more about finding links than differences between the genres, and it’s a message of unity as well.”
His workshop at Northeastern Crossing will cover a vast range of topics, from drums to his music background to his musical translation of Puerto Rican folk music. Afterwards, he will perform with his band, Villa Locura.
“I want to present this band well. I’m flying four musicians from Puerto Rico to keep the same band that I’ve been working with for the last few years,” Cole said. “I want to present this new music and this approach to our music and also to make a statement on how important it is to support and believe in big groups.”
When asked about his experience playing with the band, Cole said he prefers performing with a big band, as opposed to an economically-safer trio or quartet.
“I think there’s something very special in hearing a big group, like an orchestra. I think that’s something you cannot substitute for anything,” Cole said. “I want to support having a big group and the big sound. It’s very special every time we play.”
Born and raised in Anasco, a town on the west coast of Puerto Rico, Cole studied at the Conservatory of Music of Puerto Rico before attending the Berklee College of Music in Boston. After a stint at the Manhattan School of Music, he began touring with other artists and creating his unique style.
“What I do is adapt the language of the percussion to the drum set. So instead of imitating the patterns of the percussion, I just play off the same language as they play using the drum set,” Cole said. “I can blend these realms with music, and I can put the hip-hop influences and gospel and rap influences in the folklore base.”
Elsa Mosquera, the arts program director at Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA), spearheaded the event, inviting Cole to perform in the IBA’s Villa Victoria performance space.
“The mission of the arts program is to present and celebrate Latino art,” Mosquera said. “Henry is just one of the concerts that we’ll do throughout the year, all within the Latino theme or with Latino artists.”
The collaboration with Northeastern Crossing came after Mosquera met Marisa Luse, the event space’s campus engagement coordinator, at a cultural event in Boston.
“We focus on really helping to connect the local residents from the Fenway, South End, Mission Hill and Roxbury communities with students and staff in a way in which they are able to learn from each other, connect with each other and collaborate in more intentional ways,” Luse said.
The event, sponsored by Northeastern’s Department of Cultures, Societies and Global Studies, the African American Master Artists-in-Residence Program and the Latino/a Student Cultural Center, aims to encourage students to engage in the global arts community.
“If you’re afraid and you don’t take chances, then nothing changes and everything stays the same,” Cole said.
“Powerful Fusion with Henry Cole & Villa Locura” will be performed at the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts on Friday, Oct. 7. Students are encouraged to use the following discount code: IBACOLESTUDENT1007.
Photo courtesy IBA Boston