In a sense, songstress and writer Nykita Garnett is a touching demonstration of a neo- soul singer with an essential sound as smooth as silk or velvet.
While Liberian music followers continue to tune their ears to music that makes them want to dance, this talented young woman through simplicity, she says, hopes to connect with more fans through the affection that flows in her songs.
“By saying that I’m a lover, because that’s the frame [through] which I see everything. I’m a lover, lover of everything, I think the foundation of love is in me. And when I speak of love I’m speaking of light, positivity and not just romantic love, which is what we always think of when we think of love. I try to approach everything in my life from a really positive prospective, and that seems to work out pretty well.”
Music with emotion, with soul and sparkle, has been at the heart of Nykita’s life since she was a child, listening to soul artists like Anita Baker and Sade.
“I think when I started holding my own musical taste, there were a few things that stuck with me. Foundational artists of my taste I would say include Sade and Anita Baker. I learned how to sing on Anita Baker, her Rapture album was like a class that I took. Every run on that CD I could sing and used to practice all through my teenage years. As much as I loved soulful women, I also love diversity like Gwen Stefani, who was a huge inspiration for me,” Nykita added.
As a child in Atlanta, GA (USA), Nykita and her three sisters formed a musical group called “Mosaic”, a collage of different shades of teenage girls from dark skin, chocolaty brown, all the way to super fair skin.
”It was a mixture of every color and personality in this group. We did that for a while and performed around Atlanta, where I lived when I was in the States, until everyone decided they wanted to do different things. One went on to be a doctor, another played soccer in college and they all said that I’m the youngest and had passion, it ended up being me by myself just doing music from then on.”
Practically from that moment, Nykita says she knew music was her calling. She pursued it into her 20’s, when she landed her first solo hit track “Liberian Girl” and numerous live performances that have earned her a medal in her singing career.
From 2013-2014 Nykita has earned a steady reputation as an extraordinary singer, and spoke with LIB Life about her start-up into neo-soul music, up to how far she has come.
LIB Life: Did you grow up in a musical family?
Nykita: What’s the heart of my talent is, I come from a very musical family. It goes all the way back to my maternal grandmother, Thelma Goll from Harrisburg. She was always a praying woman and we always had music around us. A lot of it was praise and hymns; Thursday nights we’d have prayer sessions where my family would just get together and sing harmonies and hymns. I think the foundation of my passion for music and expressing myself in that way came from her in that way. Both of my parents sang in church, or recreational choirs. My mom grew up in England; she would introduce me to the Beetles and different kinds of music. My father grew up here in Liberia and had that pan-African kind of thinking and he would tell me about Cape Verde, Morocco. I always had an eclectic amount of music around me from the time I was young. From the moment I can remember talking, there was music around me. I was talking and singing at the same time.
LIB Life: You say you are a travel-holic, does that have anything to do with your love for music and having to tour around?
Nykita: Travel is something that came by accident to my life, and for many people who were refugees by the Liberian experience, it’s kind of a similar situation for me. Since the age of three, I’ve been living between Liberia and America, and a lil’ sprinkle of Ivory Coast. There’s this passion in me to travel to learn about new cultures and customs and meet new people. Somewhere in the mist of my art in terms of writing, writing music and performing music, travel is a big part of finding that inspiration and being in different scenarios that make me want to say something in terms of the article that I write and the music that I sing.
LIB Life: When did you start singing neo-soul music?
Nykita: Neo-Soul is a type of music that many people don’t know about. While kind of playing around in all of those things, the group with my sisters and listening to my favorite artists, I stumbled across neo-Soul; I think it was Eryka Badu that kind of brought me into neo-Soul, and that’s because of my sister Tania who is the hip one (I perform with her around town, and she’s permanently here in Liberia). She introduced me to Eryka. It was something that felt like Anita but was kind of different. It was young, and fresh and still growing and developing and that’s how I fell into neo-Soul. I’m just attracted to Soul in general, a lot of people will say my music is soulful, I do a lot of genres of music, some very Reggae, a bit African, and R&B. But one element that remains the same is that its “soulful”. That’s what I love about neo-soul; you can’t interpret it.
LIB Life: what is neo-Soul in your own expression?
Nykita: I think it’s about honesty, vulnerability and expressing your feelings. It comes from the gut, that heavy singing that heavy tone, it comes from the emotion, and from the honesty in that emotion. That’s what I consider soulful: honest, vulnerable and passionate kind of singing. If you can put that element on any kind of track, it always reads through.
LIB Life: Listening to your music, one of the first things that comes to mind is, you are probably one of the first neo-soul singers in Liberia, that’s awesome.
Nykita: Many years ago when I was in Atlanta and very American standard, performing to get a record deal, it didn’t work out for me, it wasn’t a free environment that I could adjust to. I remember one of the producers I was working with at the time told me that for people like me it’s not a choice, it’s ingrained in me, it’s a part of who I am. It sounded ridiculous at the time, but now I get it. Doing music is not a choice for me, it’s something that is so natural. Music is one element of who I am. I’m a song writer and a writer of articles. At the essence of me I’m really a writer; songs are just one way that I express myself. I think if you build it, it will come. I think if people can see honest, quality music there will be a nature of Liberians who will be enthusiastic about it.
LIB Life: Before I leave you, tell me a little about the challenges of being an artist.
Nykita: When you are a creative person, it’s also hard to be a structured person. Finding that healthy balance between being creative and having that space and also being business minded, and being functional because you do have to eat; you can’t eat your songs. Finding ways to turn your passion into profit, in this new environment that I’m in, I’m still trying to figure out how to turn all of my passions into profit, and I think that is one of my challenges I’ve had here. We don’t have any major money that goes towards arts and recreation, fine arts and things like that, and culturally we don’t really respect it as much. I’m just really excited to be home, I’ve been back two years and now the possibilities seem endless.