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Wellington Band Niko Ne Zna Bringing Balkan Music to Whanganui

When the drummer is on his feet and dancing with the rest of the band, you know the audience must follow.

“Dancing is not compulsory though,” Niko Ne Zna vocalist Nikkie Rich said.

“But we love it when people do.”

The 9-piece Wellington band will play their Balkan Brass Extravaganza at Whanganui’s Porridge Watson on Friday, May 3.

The line-up includes two trumpets, soprano saxophone, bass and tenor trombones, sousaphone, Balkan bass drum (tapan) and snare drum.

Rich’s vocals have been described as “beautifully alluring” and she sings in five languages.

“That depends on the setlist,” she said.

“We haven’t been playing our Greek song recently so I’ll be singing in four languages – Serbo-Croatian, Romani, Macedonian and English.”

Rich said the multilingual singing began when she joined a choir as a teenager.

“We had an awesome choir teacher who introduced us to international songs and we had Latin songs in our repertoire. It inspired my love of world music.”

Niko Ne Zna is a Balkan saying meaning “Nobody knows”.

Rich said she had Eastern European ancestry but the Balkan influence began with band leader Frankie Curac whose parents were from separate Balkan countries and met in New Zealand in the 1970s.

“They were both musicians so he grew up hearing the sounds of his parents’ home countries and he’s a wonderful musician who also teaches music.

“We’ve had a few line-up changes but essentially we keep the favourites in our repertoire and we’re always writing songs.”

The band was a top crowd-pleaser when they played at the Womad International Arts Festival in New Plymouth in 2019 and they have gained strong followings in New Zealand and Australia.

With music described as “a hot and spicy taste of the old countries with captivating original music as well as classic songs with hypnotic melodies and wild infectious rhythms”, they also add choreographed dance moves to their performances.

“We like to get out amongst the audience while we play so that is something to expect in Whanganui,” Rich said.

“We are very much looking forward to our visit.”

Niko Ne Zna members have strong Whanganui connections and two members of the local musical Jellyman family have previously been in the line-up.

“I have lived in Whanganui and I have family in Waverley I like to visit,” Rich said.

“Other band members have Whanganui connections as well so we’re excited to play at Porridge Watson.”

Niko Ne Zna Extravaganza: Porridge Watson, 30 Drews Ave, Friday, May 3, at 8pm.

Source: NZ Herald