Nico Spezzacatena is a multi-talented percussionist, performer, and educator from Hoboken, New Jersey. He received his BFA (98) and MFA (00) in world music performance from the California Institute of the Arts.
Nico has been studying and researching traditional music and dance for over 30 years.
In 1997, he founded Guineafia – a West African Drum and Dance Ensemble. In 1999, Nico traveled to Ghana, West Africa to research Ewe, Dagomba, and Asante culture, music, and dance. As a result, 3 documentaries were released. He has studied Drum and Dance under the Ladzekpo family, the Yevutsey family, Promise Dogbatsey, Sulley Imoro, the Lawluvi family (choreography and dance), Seth and Asari of the University of Legon, Kakraba Lobi, Doug Floyd, Mor Thiam, Sylla Diallo, Sidiki Dembele, Mamady Keita, Shodunke Ayanlekan and Ayandokun Ayanwale.
Nico is a tabla disciple of Swapan Chaudhuri and a Pakhawaj student of Nishaant Singh. He has also studied South Indian Karnatic music with Poovalur Srinivasan and S. Sankar. He has studied the Balinese and Javanese gamelans, and in 2010 Nico travelled to Bali to research and study the Jegog ensemble as well as numerous blacksmiths and gong makers.
Afro-Cuban and Haitian drumming has been studied, as well as an array of frame drums with John Bergamo. Nico has been involved in Hawaiian culture through his colleague’s at the Maui Theatre.
Nico has performed with Olodum, Wadada Leo Smith, Trichy Sankaran, Bruce Springsteen, Los Lobos, Ozomatli, Huun-Huur-Tu, Mick Fleetwood, and Boogsie Sharp, to name a few. He has performed and given workshops in the Tri-State Area, Florida, California, Nevada, West Virginia, the Hawaiian Islands, Milan, and Ghana. In 2001, he recorded music for NBC’s Survivor Kenya TV series. Nico is also a researcher and board member of the Nada Brahma Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the research, education and preservation of indigenous culture.
On Maui, Nico was the lead percussionist in ‘Ulalena, the award-winning theatrical production depicting the history, mythology and culture of the Hawaiian peoples. He performed a staggering 4,500+ shows over a 16 and a half year run.
In addition, Nico has been responsible for organizing and bringing several West African performers to hold various workshops for the community. His Drum in the Sun activity had a successful run at the Fairmont Kealani in Wailea for several years before the rise of Covid. Nico is currently full artistic (choreographic, musical, vocal and costume) director of his group Afronesia, an Afro-Polynesian troupe that performs for large scale corporate events. And finally with permission, several years after it‘s closing - he was able to revive Ulalena in vignette form to continue to share its Mana and message to people across the globe.