Photo Stories: Willem Hendrikse

 Sharing a coffee with Willem Hendrikse,66, a musician from Curacao is a grateful experience, full of different stories. 

Born and raised in Curacao, this former teacher discovered other worlds beyond the Caribbean Sea through the music. He moved for the first time to The Netherlands in 1972 to study architecture in the TU Eindhoven but plans changed when he came back to teach in a basic school and playing music in Curaçao in 1978. “It was really hard to combine both things, I was a teacher on mornings and I was finishing my shows at late night, doing that three times a week and then standing up in front of 45 children the next morning was crazy, I wasn’t sleeping so much by then!”.

In 1985, Willem decided to move permanently to Eindhoven to follow his true passion, music. Back then, the market for independent musicians was growing. “I came to the city and immediately I started playing in restaurants and giving private shows. Theme parties were a trend, especially Mexican ones, so suddenly my agenda was fully booked! I started with a group which continued for several years, then it became a duo and now I’m playing as a solo and occasionally with other musicians, but work is never over”, he says.  Besides the music, Willem enjoys reading, cooking and learning about cultures all the time. His extraordinary abilities with languages such as Dutch, Papiamento, Spanish, English, French, German and Italian makes it easier for him to perform a range of songs by memory.

In general, adapting to The Netherlands was not complicated for him, except for the cold and darkness from the winter. Curaçao is part of the Dutch Antilles, even with European heritage, social life and entertainment are very different. “We just had a few tv channels and radio stations, with Antillean, Venezuelan and Latin American shows. Music was mostly Latin rhythms like salsa, merengue, cumbia and if I wanted to listen to other music genres, I had to go to bars from the marines. They were bringing international stuff to the island. It was really difficult to keep up with people and get to know other things”, remembers Willem. He also thinks that with the rise of the internet and the increasing programs for tourism and retirement, life in Curaçao got more dutch influence these days.

Growing international it’s a big advantage, Willem has used all these experiences to create his own music: “I feel attracted to the fusion of rhythms and cultures. The Antillean are Caribbeans mixed with Latin Americans but also with Spanish and Jewish who migrated to Curaçao a long time ago, so I took the good on that and used it for my artistic projects”.
Sometimes it’s hard to keep the balance between daily life and creating art. For some artists, it’s necessary to have a side job to get a fixed income to pay bills, but he thinks when artists are too involved in other activities, they stop producing. Willem has more than 30 years in Eindhoven working as a full-time musician, adapting to the trends and technology without losing his focus on his main goal: living from what makes him happy.

For Eindhoven News: Andrea Salas

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