Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Nikara Warren describes herself as being ‘bathed’ in music and the arts since birth. “I would wake up hearing Dizzy Gillespie, get in the car with my mom and listen to TLC, be dropped off at school and listen to System of a Down or The Who, play Charles Mingus in band, hear Biggie on the way home and listen to Trio da Paz or some Brazilian music while eating dinner. Rhythm was always key,” she exclaims. As the product of a mixed culture family (she’s the daughter of a half Trinidadian soca/dancehall lover, and a classic Brooklyn ‘Round the Way” girl in the 90s), Nikara’s aesthetic is a direct reaction to the music she grew up with. As its only natural that Nikara makes ‘rump-shaker’ music with an emphasis on dancing.
Jazz also plays an important role in Nikara’s compositions. Growing up, Nikara’s introduction to the vibraphone came from her grandfather, NEA Jazz master, pianist Kenny Barron and his years playing with vibraphonist Stefon Harris. “I grew up getting in trouble for jumping on the bar stools at The Village Vanguard. I’ll never forget the day I saw the vibes set up. I knew we had them at school, but I never knew anyone could play them the way he did.” Though that evening propelled Nikara to study Lionel Hampton, Milt Jackson, Steve Nelson and dozens of other vibraphone masters, don’t be so quick to call her a vibraphonist or a ‘jazz’ musician. “I am a lover of music and sound, I love putting sounds together”, she says. “People study vibraphone and improvisation for many years to be considered masters of their craft. I’m a musician and I use vibes as my means to create sounds based in love and healing.”
Nikara’s vibraphone playing would eventually earn her a scholarship to Berklee College of Music, where she would study music business, and eventually land a job in the copyright department at Sony. Feeling disconnected from the music she had always known, she submitted her compositions and earned a spot in The Betty Carter Jazz Ahead classes of 2013 and 2014 directed by Jason Moran. Here she was able to study under the close tutelage of Jason Moran, Marc Cary, Carmel Luny, Dwayne Burno and many more.
Nikara has has shared the stage with her grandfather Kenny Barron, vocalist Charenee Wade, Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts, Hailey Niswanger’s MAE.SUN and many more. Her newest project, ’Black Wall Street’ is set of ‘feel-good’ music designed as an ode to Black Excellence to counteract the emotional trauma caused by news headings of Black men and women being slain by police. Nikara draws from many forms of Black music and brings awareness to the Black Wall Street massacre of 1921 while remaining positive about the future and emphasizing the amazingness that People of Color have to offer in the arts.