Punk Empress of African Rock, Cole Williams

Interview: Cole Williams On Empowering Youth Through Storytelling

When Cole Williams first arrived in New Orleans in 2015, she was hopeful that the city’s rich musical tapestry would have a positive influence on her own music. “I knew I was going to be a better musician just by being immersed in the music here,” the Brooklyn native recalls. “I just feel so supported musically. I feel like there’s nothing I can’t do.”

Since then, she has fully immersed herself into every aspect of the musical fabric of the Big Easy, handling midday hosting duties every Tuesday with WWOZ’s New Orleans Music Show. When she’s not on-air, she and her band host their weekly African Rock Saturday show at Marigny Brasserie (640 Frenchmen Street).

Part of her musical evolution has involved her delving deeper into her craft as a storyteller. “What I really do now that I didn’t do before is that I really tell a story. I was always a storyteller but just experiencing life in New Orleans [and] experiencing the culture has allowed me to get deeper into the reasons why I make music. It’s beautiful,” she tells Offbeat.

Grateful for what the city has instilled in her, Williams has joined forces with the New Orleans Jazz Museum (401 Esplanade Avenue) for a set of community workshops designed to help her pay it forward. The two events will bring together Williams’ passion for storytelling and music.

The first event will take place Friday, October 27 from 2p.m. – 3 p.m. and is geared towards area youth interested learning more about the art of storytelling.

“It’s just a way for me to give back and teach some young up-and-coming singers and songwriters my technique of writing music,” she explains about the workshops’ impetus. “It’s really a way for me to talk about the art of storytelling and being comfortable telling your own story.”

On November 1 at 8p.m., Williams will host a follow-up event, We R African Rock in which she will perform her brand of rock music of the African diaspora. During the hour- and- half long set, they will be exploring different sounds onstage. “I’ve been working with a drummer and a DJ to create a sound that’s a lot more percussive and really getting back to the roots of music, which his rhythm and voice,” says the self-proclaimed Punk Empress of African Rock.

Ultimately, Williams’ goal is to help area youth be exposed to the power of self-expression and how important it is for personal development, growth, and autonomy. “I see a lot of youth around me that don’t use their imaginations or don’t think that their voices matter,” she asserts. “I think it [their voices] is something that could be a tool if they understand that they do have a voice in this world and that they don’t have to wait until they become adults.”

Admission for the storytelling workshop on October 27 is free for children and $5 at the door for adults, while admission to the We R African Rock event is $10. In celebration, we’re giving away a pair of tickets to the show on our Instagram, so make sure to follow @OffBeatMagazine and find out how to enter to win!