I’ve seen Nikisha perform a couple of times and I am always amazed at the transformation which occurs on stage! Off the stage, I see her as relatively quiet, not one to cause a riot. On stage? It’s an entirely different persona; larger than life, more attitude, more… shine.
Nikisha’s hit single “One Dance” in 2009 made the Uk soca community take notice of her as a soca artist. She went on to win ‘Best UK Soca Artist’ in 2010 at the Annual UK Calabash Awards. Nikisha has collaborated with Ben Cocks of Atmosphere Music on the song ‘So Cold’. The song has premiered in TV Shows and movies worldwide, including “The Good Wives”, “Dollhouse” plus a variety of international adverts. Funny that, we have been in Bacchanalia Mas Band at the same time. But I can’t say that we have ever had a conversation with each other. Time to get to know Nikisha.
Tell me about you. How did you come to be a musician and and how did you come to be into soca? I am a singer songwriter based in London. I was born in Trinidad and moved to London in 2000 with my family. Music is something I did as a child since Trinidad. I started singing in my church choir from the age of 5. I also wrote my first kaiso at the age of 11 and came 2nd in my primary school calypso contest. Once I moved to London, I already knew that I wanted a career in the music industry, and took various steps within that direction in regards to studies and auditions and seeking ways to enhance my skills as a Singer Songwriter and Live Entertainer.
I think you maybe started out in soca but now you are exploring other genres? Am I correct in this assumption? Well at first I began my career singing rnb ballads and contemporary soul music, but within my first year of trying to establish myself, I recognised that there was too much competition in that genre. As a Trini girl in London I was invited to collaborate on a soca beat, which then generated interest from the UK soca community. That was in 2009 with my song *One Dance* produced by Soca Child, also known as (360 Riddim Up) . It was then that I decided steer my career in the direction in becoming a UK soca Artist, as it seemed at the time, more fun, and more rewarding than doing contemporary R&B music. I pursued soca for 5 years. It was fun while it lasted. But now as someone who is determined to make a living from music, I have slowed down with the soca side of things, to focus on contemporary music.
Are you working on any music right about now? Yes I am working on a few projects. Always writing always singing. That cycle never really stops.
How would you describe your sound? My sound is very soulful. Even within soca and calypso, I am compared to the likes of Singing Sandra, David Rudder and Destra for my vocal melodies. Outside of soca, I usually tend to confuse people as my voice has many colors. I’m blessed with the ability to adapt to different genres almost as effortlessly as a chameleon adapts to its environment. I’ve been compared to the likes of Toni Braxton, Tracy Chapman, Beyonce, Heather Headly, Rihanna, Shakira and Alicia Keys, quite a variety of singers with completely different styles.
What do you think of the direction that soca as a genre is taking at the moment? To be honest, I think soca just adapts to whatever is hot in the charts at the moment. Whatever the International Charts says is hot new and fresh, soca music of the year tends to then follow in the footsteps, and reinvent a new sound to reflect those current influences.
What do you think of the UK soca industry? I think it still has a lot of room to grow. It is a great platform for new artists, who are passionate about soca music, to gain experience with difficult audiences, which tend to prefer the artists from the islands. Experience performing to this kind of audience helps the artist to develop the thick skin needed to deal with the other pressures of being in such a niche genre. The UK soca scene itself – in my opinion- still lacks structure, and opportunities for UK artist to progress into becoming as big as their Caribbean idols.
Do you think that there are any unique difficulties in being a UK soca artist? In my humble Opinion, from my own personal experience- I think that, apart from soca music being a male dominated genre, one of the biggest difficulties UK soca artists face, is the lack of demand for soca music in the UK, and the discrimination, for being based in the UK. This discrimination is also sometimes met with lack of respect from SOME of the more influential soca DJs internationally and a few biased promoters who prefer to promote Caribbean based acts. This bias is transferred to the limited audience for such a niche genre in the UK, as many soca fans, are still unaware that there are soca Artists based in the UK. This I believe, has a negative effect on the growth potential of the UK based artist.
As a musician/artist, what is your greatest accomplishment to date? My greatest accomplishment is my performance on the track called “So Cold” by Ben Cocks which was signed to universal music publishing and synchronised on television programmes around the world. I am very proud of that. I am also still very proud of the moment Alicia Keys shared my cover of her song “In Common” on her instagram. That is something that will always make me smile for the next few years to come. I love Alicia and what she did made me love her even more.
What has been your most favourite place to perform? I love big festivals. My favorite festival performance was in Bristol. It was the most challenging for me as I was briefed beforehand that the audience hated soca. And there I was, booked to do a 20 min soca set, whilst the impatient audience waited for the main act which was an established reggae band. The presenter introduced me as a soca artist to which the audience booed! It was the most devastating moment for me. However straight into my set and the audience quickly changed their minds. By the time I was finished I was invited back on stage to do an encore. That for me has been the highlight to my career so far as an entertainer. The challenge of being at such a huge festival with such a huge audience. It has created a drive within me to one day be able to have such a large audience of my own.
What does carnival mean to you? I love Carnival. I love the idea of being free to express yourself however you want, without a care for what other people may think. I loved it more when I was younger and didn’t take life too seriously. Lol. I don’t get the chance to enjoy it the way I used to before. Now as i’m focused on my career and hungry to succeed, these days I can only enjoy carnival through the eyes of my friends and family who never fail to update their facebook on every fete they go to, and what costumes and mas bands they masquerading with! Lol
What does the future hold for Nikisha? Well, I’ve stopped looking to the future and now I focus on the present. Lol. The balance of being a realist and an optimist is very challenging. But I’ve learnt that in this industry, it is very difficult and nothing is ever guaranteed. Right now my focus is just to ensure that I can continue to earn a living from doing what I love, as well as using my art and creativity to inspire people.
So what have I learnt about Nikisha? She is quite honest about her journey and the environment which has influenced her current artistic direction. That she has had some incredible achievements to date and is not about to give up now on her dreams. That the singing Chamaleon that is Nikisha will continue to shine.
For more information on Nikisha please visit www.Nikisha.com, Nikisha Reyes-Pile on FB or Officialnikisha on instagram. All images were used with the authorisation of Nikisha the artist.