Nikai works on her new song, “Peace Of Mind” with Pak. Photo taken by Amy Piñon.

Nikai works on her new song, “Peace Of Mind” with Pak. Photo taken by Amy Piñon.

Nikai is an artist, poet, songwriter, and singer from Bellevue, Washington. She uses music to give space to herself to heal and to tell her stories and experiences. This past summer, we were honored to be able to work with Nikai and to have her be featured for our 23rd installment of The Song.

What's the name of your latest song?

My latest and very first song created is called, “Peace Of Mind”, inspired by Lauryn Hill’s version, “I Gotta Find Peace Of Mind”. I would recognize her as one of my inspirations for creating music.

Tell us what your song is about. What inspired you? How do you hope listeners will receive your messages?

Now I am totally aware of how art is very subjective, so however the audience interprets my music is neither wrong or right, but what inspired my song is an experience with a fellow boy who came into my life and kinda shook things up. All I wanted and needed was to find peace within myself to truly be content instead of being dependent on him for it. When I let him have so much power over my emotions, it kinda took a toll on me to the point where I didn’t feel like I was in control of my own happiness.

What was the process of creating this song like?

The song was first actually a short poem, because before i got into this program I only identified as a poet, and it then became bigger and formed into a whole song. I had to opportunity to learn about song-making and cadence because of Pak and Paul. Now I identify as both a poet as well as a songwriter! There are a lot of similarities between creating a poem and a song but the differences are also significant.

Tell us a little about how you discovered your love for music. Who are some of your greatest influences?

What got me into music was most likely because i was always surrounded by it - whether it was bumping to some R&B and Hip Hop at a cookout on my moms side of the family or being in my school choir. As I mentioned before, the beautiful Lauryn Hill is one of my favorite artists. Frank Ocean is another as well. That dude is just a lyrical genius and he’s had a big influence on me, especially during this time of my life. Being young, experiencing love for the first time, and just trying to find my purpose. Music basically just runs through my veins and I couldn’t imagine a world with out it. It’s the reason why I’m still here.

What have you learned from your experience with Totem Star? What are some of the biggest take aways?

What I learned from Totem Star and the great influencers from there is that I have a gift. The way I express myself to the world is different and unique and I have a light that I’ve always kinda tried to dim in order to make others feel comfortable. But I realized that I can’t hide my greatness and my complexities. This is who I am and the people meant to be in my life will be there.

What are some dreams and aspirations that you would like to reach one day?

I just want my art to make someone feel something, and have it mean something to someone. Even if it’s just one person I’m impacting. Whatever that feeling or meaning is I want it to contribute to the feeling of being alive, not merely surviving but truly living. For example, Frank Ocean makes me cry, some may associate that as a negative thing but for me it’s an act of healing. I want to help heal.

Paul Laughlin