Hip hop

Niki Zefanya: Not Stopping For Any One

Music Press Asia / Interview: Niki Zefanya is expected to release her debut album with 88 Rising year end. Photo credit: 88 Rising.

Music Press Asia / Interview: Niki Zefanya is expected to release her debut album with 88 Rising year end. Photo credit: 88 Rising.

2019 is just about to get more exciting for Indonesian artist Nicole Zefanya, more known as Niki. At just 20 years old, Niki is keeping busy with her latest creative venture with 88 Rising, a L.A-based collective, famed for some of its most creative output and collaborations with Brian Rich and Joji.

Niki’s debut album, set to release at the end of the year titled “Moonchild”, foreshadows a profession dedicated passionately to music. In a recent interview with Music Press Asia, Niki has not only shown great ambassadorship for the youths her age, but that sheer love for singing, especially at a young age, can take you a long way.

“My whole thing is that if you’re passionate about it, just pursue it.”

Her voice is crisps, naturally bubbly, exudes a larger-than-life persona — a concoction of girl power passionately learning her trade. Explaining her vision, Niki indulged her earlier years singing soul and gospel music in the car with her mother. Riding on 88 Rising’s stirring casts, today, she moves from a place in her path as an artist to fullfill a larger dream — a dream for those who felt that they’ve been sidelined.

“We just want to be beacons for Asian kids out there, really. I’ve never met any like-minded people before, and at 88, they are just so ready to change culture and honestly, it’s an eye opening experience.”

“I don’t want to speak on behalf of my label mates. But, personally, the general collective aim [of 88 Rising] was to really create and catalyse some sort of cultural change or shift in the mainstream media and push for Asian artists. In the past, we’ve been under-represented or misrepresented…so this is also achieving a personal goal.”

The 88 Rising family includes acts from Indonesia (rapper Rich Brian and R&B singer NIKI), Japan (R&B singer Joji), China (the rap/pop group Higher Brothers) and South Korea (rapper Keith Ape), as well as L.A. artist August 08.

So, how does she feel about her latest record?

“This record is clearly a lot more pop-sounding than my Zephyr EP, which is more R&B focused…It’s a symbolic [record] because it represents the enlightening moment I’d experienced. I finally realized that there’s no need to conform to anybody’s expectations, genre or artistry wise. And that I can just make any music I wanted.”

“At first, I’ve had mixed feeling about it because I was still adhering to that mindset where I’m an R&B artists, so I’ll just have to put out R&B songs.”

“But in the process of making this record, I realized that I am the common denominator of my music, regardless of what it sounds like or what preconceived notions of what people have of certain genres,” said Niki.

“And as long as I’m writing honestly and authentically, which I always do, regardless of the genre, it should translate to the people who wants to receive it.”

Over the last few EPs, much have changed. Although she admits that not all of her singles derived from a personal experience, she held firm believe in connecting with her audience. “A lot was really inspired by films I saw and stories I’ve heard. And relate that with my fans, that people could listen to when they are sad and happy.”

Having lived in Jakarta, Niki remembered many incredible moments growing up, and the wonders dealing with the duality of her very own identity, just like any other Jakartians.

“I speak both Bahasa and English fluently and attends an international school. And only took me a minute to understand that — it’s okay to be in a cultural mud because I’m more dimensional that way.”

Niki dedicates her passion and love for singing to her mother. “My very first inspirations came from my mother and her friends. They are truly insane musicians. I would watch them, on the stage of a quiet church in central Jakarta, shredding gospel music.”

“They taught me how to harmonize, and that is where my musical knowledge came from….I do not think for a single moment that that muscle would have been practiced if I wasn’t singing at the top of my lungs in the car with mum.”

“My mum is super Indo, bubbly and friendly. Because of her, I am the way I am, how I carry myself and see the world. And because of her, I feel very Indonesian.

Today, Niki continues to build a versatile song list that ‘chronicles’ her life. “I just view every project like a record of what’s going on in my life…and hope to expand people’s view of me as an artist and what I can bring to the table.”

Her latest single “Lowkey” gained 5.4 million views in just three months. And is expected to release her debut album “Moonchild” by end of 2019. Upcoming performance is set at L.A.’s Head In The Clouds Music & Arts festival on August 17, 2019.

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