Photo courtesy of Us Studios.
Rony Nikke is in the midst of crossing over, and in a variety of ways.
The Dominican Republic-born but New York-based singer of the urban Caribbean persuasion left for his home country on July 12th, technically going on tour but also to visit family and friends. When asked how long the tour would run at the time, Nikke replied, “We don’t know yet.” His slew of performances ended up fulfilling both purposes but the tour itself also serves a much more savvy, long-term goal, which Nikke himself explains in detail. But first, a brief introduction.
In its essence, Rony Nikke’s career serves as an example of how a Spanish artist can struggle at times trying to break into a mostly Anglo-centric city where there are few Spanish media outlets, but also the joys of what can happen when you stay true to your roots and native tongue. By doing that, he has encountered fans from places he would have never expected. BTR had the chance to speak with Nikke as he had just finished his tour, making plans to go back to the Dominican Republic and begin work on his new album, Sol de Caribe, which he promises will be out by the end of the year.
To give a clear explanation of Nikke’s geographical references, when he says “over here” he means New York City, but when he says “over there,” he means the Dominican Republic. He says about his tour that he wants to “get a market over there.” Nikke had trouble seeing his family the last time he was “over there,” because he wasn’t playing shows central to any major Dominican cities, but he has hope to reconnect in the future.
Nikke used his most recent tour as a way to further his career but it would do him an injustice to explain his plan in someone else’s words. So we’ll let the man speak for himself:
“There are a lot of artists that are famous today and they’re from here [again, New York City]. They’re born over here but they speak Spanish and other ones, they’re born in DR and come over here but still going over there to get famous so some people do it that way. They’re going to the original country and trying to get famous over there and then coming over here famous and it’s easy. When you’re already famous, it’s easy for you to have a lot of stuff over here because New York is a really big market. When you’re famous it’s definitely pretty good. If the people support you, it’s really good. That’s the trick that I’m trying to do,” Nikke says.
Nikke isn’t the only one who has thought of this trick, though. Even to use the word “trick” is a bit of an understatement, as it’s more of a “five year plan,” and Nikke is intent on following in the tradition of the breakout Dominican bachata vocalist Romeo Santos, who recently sold out Yankee stadium.
Planning for his next trip to the DR, Nikke is anticipating a media tour promoting his work on Dominican TV and radio. In contrast to the struggles of “over here,” Nikke says, that there is a “big market for people that are famous already” in New York City but that for the people who are up-and-comers, it becomes more “tricky to promote.”
Rony Nikke is happy to play for Caribbean or Latin American events and he’s gotten a lot of love from especially Honduras and El Salvador. He sets his sights higher than these areas though, and is really looking to cast a net over the entire world. He says he gets requests to play “around the world” from people who “don’t know anything about me” but who have subscribed to his YouTube channel.
He’s proud to say that not only Dominicans “go with my style,” but also Europeans who are getting hip to urban Caribbean. He has one example of such a girl from quite the opposite of an urban Caribbean area who has taken to his music, and the attention was enough for him to consider how best to court such international appeal.
“There is a girl from Montana, she’s Native American, and she likes my music. It’s a lot of people from other parts of the world and they’re feeling my music. I think it’s that it’s kind of catchy… they’re catching everything. It’s probably the flow or whatever, it’s catchy music,” says Nikke. “Don’t get me wrong, in this CD coming out, Sol de Caribe, I’m trying—I’m not trying, I’m going—to make one English song because it’s not the first time that people have asked me for English songs. For years, back in the day, people would start asking me and still I have people who only speak English so I gotta make at least one English track.”
Nikke’s biggest single to date is the infectiously danceable “La Vela” which translates to “The Candle”. If there was ever a song that quantified Nikke’s multi-cultural predicament, it would be “La Vela” as it sheds light (no pun intended) on aspects of Dominican life that the First World may not be so keenly aware of—which is exactly what he has been trying to do throughout his career.
“Over here, you have light 24/7—seven days a week, 12 months a year you have light. Especially in my country, sometimes the light goes off. You gotta wait until the light comes back again. There is something that they use sometimes, they connect and you have light but you need gasoline for that. Imagine throwing a party with no light; you’re having a party and the light goes off, whatchu gonna do? Just turn on the candle and keep going,” says Nikke somewhat whimsically.
With his upcoming album, Sol de Caribe, on the horizon, Rony Nikke is hardly (to borrow a tired Americanism) riding off into the sunset. He’s embarking on a journey back home—this time with a plan, only to return “over here” with a sense of purpose: To bring his luminescence to the only city in the world where the lights never go out.
Party with the lights off with Rony Nikke by clicking here.
Check out Rony Nikke’s music and interview on the latest episode of Discovery Corner on BTR.