An interview with Harol from El Grupo H
Dennis: Good day Harol, thanks for taking the time to chat with me today! How are you?
Harol: Hi Dennis! It’s such a pleasure to share some time with you and the wonderful readers of the Chicago Music Guide.
Dennis: The pleasure is mine. So, there is a lot to talk about with you today, a musical family with a lot of talent, that is amazing! Let’s start with your background of 20 years, tell me about that, please.
Harol: From a young age, I would watch orchestras playing on television and I found a passion in that. I wanted to be there one day! So I fought hard for that dream and today, I can proudly say that I have had the privilege to be a member of important orchestras (more than 100!) and to travel around the world sharing music with others. During this career of over 20 years, I have performed in big-name stages, participated in many albums with different artists (as musician, engineer, arranger), and have served as music teacher. I have combined all that experience and applied it to El Grupo H, my own family band.
Dennis: That is amazing, what great accomplishments you’ve made over those years! When did you meet Helena and how did your musical family end up becoming El Grupo H?
Harol: I met Helena in Cali, Colombia in 1993. I was a music professor at the Universidad del Valle. She was an engineering student who was interested in joining the university band that I was directing. When our children were born, each one demonstrated musical talent at a very early age. That is how El Grupo H began. By the way, the name of the band means “The H Band” in English. That is because all of our names begin with the letter H! Harol (Dad), Helena (Mom), Hellen, Harold and Heily Rivas.
Dennis: Very cool! Tell me about all the instruments each of you play and how you all came to learn them.
Harol: We all play several instruments. I play 13 but my main ones are piano, bass and guitar. I was self-taught through music books, and I had the blessing of being able to teach my children how to read, write and play music. Hellen, my eldest daughter, plays saxophone, piano, and violin and loves to sing. Harold plays 17 instruments, mostly percussion, as well as guitar, trombone, piano, bass, amongst others. Heily plays 13 instruments including bass, piano and violin.
Dennis: How many instruments do you each end up playing at performances?
Harol: That is a great question! Because we play a varied range of musical styles as well as different instruments, typically, we rotate instruments often. So I would say, each person plays about 3 or 4 instruments, plus voice, in every performance.
Dennis: I’d hate to be the band’s roadie with all the instruments being brought to each show… (laughs), but it definitely sounds great to be able to mix things up for each performance, what a blessing you all share! It looks like El Grupo H has performed all types of events and shows, what is the band’s favorite to play?
Harol: Yes! We perform weddings, religious ceremonies, cocktails, corporate events, private parties, festivals and much more! We enjoy them all and put all of our heart into each and every one of them.
Dennis: I can tell that from the demo video and other clips I saw from your Youtube channel and the audiences all seem to love you too! Tell me about the Rivas Perdomo Family Foundation, I understand Hellen is the President of the Foundation too. How did the Foundation come to be and how has it helped the band and others in the community?
Harol: Rivas Perdomo Family Foundation is a non profit organization founded by my family in 2005. The idea to found it came from our desire to help those in need. So far, we have realized 7 humanitarian missions in Colombia and several programs to support talented children in Miami, Florida, by providing music lessons. The foundation has helped the band grow marvelous ties with new fans from around the world who have met us during the missions, where we not only provide the goods, but also a message of personal overcoming and do a special performance. These projects have helped enrich the community by providing support to youth in the pursuit of their dreams. Our eldest daughter, Hellen Rivas, is the president of the organization.
Dennis: It is so great to see how you’ve helped others in this way, keep it up! What have been some struggles El Grupo H have encountered and how has the band overcome them?
Harol: Some of the struggles El Grupo H faces involves the timing or scheduling of rehearsals since all of us have other talents that we also dedicate time to. For example, Hellen is a broadcast journalist and TV host. She just graduated with a master’s degree at the age of 22. Harold and Heily are currently taking college courses though they are only 16 and 14 years old, respectively. Harold studies film and Heily is studying fashion design. Also, we have a music business in Miami, dedicated to providing live music entertainment, music lessons and more services related to music! Helena is also talented as an entrepreneur and I am the musical director of our company.
Dennis: Wow… seriously, how do you all find the time at all? (laughs) How involved in social media is the band?
Harol: El Grupo H is very active on social media! It provides us an excellent way to interact with our audience and connect with them. It is so inspiring to hear their beautiful comments as well as feedback that we can use to prepare for the next projects. Anyone who wants to connect with us can follow @elgrupoh on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.com/elgrupoh
Dennis: Aside from what you have in your biography, what more could you tell me about the band, what are some of the band’s interests outside music?
Harol: As I mentioned before, each member of the family has an additional set of skills that truly enriches our musical projects. For example, Harold is key when we are preparing a new music video (which we film and edit ourselves, too!). Heily helps us with making choices for the outfits. Hellen manages our social media and loves making appearances on radio and TV.
Dennis: How does the band approach songwriting, is it a group effort?
Harol: Yes! Our past 3 singles have been created between my son, Harold, daughter, Hellen and me. Basically one person has an idea, another has the melody, another helps write the lyrics and so forth. It is very interesting.
Dennis: What types of music does everyone listen to and get inspired by?
Harol: We love to listen to older music to learn from it! Since we are Colombians, we love Hispanic rhythms but also enjoy music from all around the world. Sometimes, we quickly learn new songs that we have heard and liked, and then practice it together as a family.
Dennis: What would you like listeners to take away from your music?
Harol: I think the most important thing is that all of our songs carry a positive message. We have made that our priority. We believe in the power that music has in the way it can influence others and their ways of thinking. So we hope that everyone who hears our music can get inspired to make some sort of positive change in their lives and to find ways to help others around them.
Dennis: Well, I think, not only your music, but your lives are also an inspiration to anyone who learns of you! I, myself am inspired by how gifted and accomplished each of you are. Has the band performed any tours as of yet?
Harol: El Grupo H has had hundreds of performances at the local and state level and we would love to go on tour with our new production, “Just a Little”.
Dennis: What does El Grupo H have planned for the rest of this year?
Harol: In late August, we will be launching our new music video, “Just a Little”. It features our very own fans who joined us in participating in it. In terms of performances, from September to October, El Grupo H is fully booked for Hispanic Heritage Month. Similarly, we have the entire Thanksgiving through Christmas season fully booked, as happens each year! In between, we are scheduled for private performances as well as many interviews on radio, press and television. Again, thank you so much for this opportunity!
Dennis: I cannot stop saying it, but (again), wow… so wonderful to see such good things come to good people! What are some long term goals you would like to accomplish with El Grupo H?
Harol: Well, Dennis, as mentioned before, we would love to go on several tours throughout the world during the next few years. In addition, we hope our music can stream on all radios across the globe!
Dennis: Is there anything more you’d like to share with our readers today?
Harol: Yes, a special memory to share. We began producing albums when Hellen was 5 years old! It has been a wonderful journey. We invite your readers to check out all of our music on iTunes, Spotify, Amazon and similar platforms.
Dennis: Thank you so very much for your time and I wish you, your family and the band (itself) all the best!