NPR Music’s Tiny Desk is celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. These artists represent just a sliver of the cultural diversity that exists within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
Stephen Thompson | May 31, 2023
NIKI, a.k.a. Nicole Zefanya, took a circuitous route to the Tiny Desk. Born in Jakarta, she scored a major opportunity by winning a competition at 15 to open for Taylor Swift when her Red Tour took her to Indonesia. After moving to Nashville and building a following as a YouTuber, NIKI released two EPs and an album (Moonchild), then moved to L.A. and landed her song “Every Summertime” on the soundtrack to the Marvel blockbuster Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: The Album. Our own Bobby Carter heard that track and fell in love, and soon enough, NIKI and her band were breaking in the latest instrument in our in-house Tiny Desk collection: a light-blue toy piano.
That li’l piano figures prominently in “Backburner,” the song that opens NIKI’s Tiny Desk debut, but these songs also reflect a more serious side. “The Apartment We Won’t Share,” which the singer says “sort of laments the loss of an unlived life with somebody,” recalls the weightier reflections of Taylor Swift, while “Before” tells the specific-but-relatable story of a long-distance love that falls apart before it can get fun. But NIKI closes her set on a breezy note, as she and her band swim in sleekly soulful, ’70s-singer-songwriter vibes throughout “Every Summertime.” The story of a love that grows and evolves with each passing summer, it had Bobby and the rest of us swaying, swooning and swimming in high hopes for the weeks and months to come.
“The Apartment We Won’t Share”
NIKI: vocals, piano, guitar
Jacob Ray: percussion, effects, guitar, vocals, music director
Kim Vi: keys, guitar, vocals
Edison Lo: bass, vocals
Fer Fuentes: drums
Andrea Ferrero: guitar, toy piano, vocals
Desiree Hazley: violin, vocals
TINY DESK TEAM
Producer: Bobby Carter
Director/Editor: Maia Stern
Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin
Creative Director: Bob Boilen
Videographers: Maia Stern, Joshua Bryant, Sofia Seidel, Alanté Serene
Audio Assistant: Hannah Gluvna
Photographer: Elizabeth Gillis
Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Kara Frame, Hazel Cills, Ashley Pointer
VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann
#niki #nprmusic #tinydesk