Photo of Yulia Niko

Yulia Niko

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Russia
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Artist Spotlight

Gray Area Spotlight: Yulia Niko

Yulia Niko is a Russian-born DJ and producer of melodic-minimal techno— a style she imagined into existence that incorporates steady beats, precise layering, and the occasional breathy, other-worldly vocal. She is a current resident of Watergate in Berlin, which is where she technically lives, but her talents have her traveling the world more often than she is at home.  Niko grew up in the south of Russia, in a small town called Anapa right on the Black Sea. Anapa is known for palm trees and sandy beaches, unlike the cold and snow that usually springs to mind when one thinks of Russia. Niko feels blessed to have grown up in this sunny tourist town and feels it's part of the reason she's so drawn to the beaches of Tulum.  She fell in love with techno music when she went to the clubs for the first time at 14 years old. Although the music scene was small, lacking in age restrictions, and she couldn't name the DJs who played, she instantly connected with the music.  She played her first gig at 15 years old in neighboring Sochi. Her parents were surprisingly supportive of her burgeoning music career. They preferred she spend her time at clubs playing vinyl than at random boy's houses alone with the potential to drink vodka. Despite their support, Niko felt the need to sneak away to Moscow when she was booked to play at Russia's biggest club.  "When I was sixteen, I went for the first time to a gig in Moscow," she explains, "I was lying to my parents that I was going to sleep at a friend's in the next house and then I took a flight and played and after a couple of days I come back and I thought, I can't lie. And I told my mom, and my parents were like, 'What?? You went alone? You're sixteen!' And I was like, 'Yes, and I was playing at the best club in Russia!' And then my parents just accepted that I was impossible to stop. I was unstoppable." Since starting to make music, Niko's process and style have changed completely. Her early influences included Brazilian electronic producer Gui Boratto, and German techno DJ, Stephan Bodzin. She developed a taste for house music through Luciano and Erick Morillo as she started to travel. She credits Luciano as her number one influence. He's even inspired how she performs and moves around the stage.  She studied music production in New York, and once she began to produce, her hunger to play only her own tracks became insurmountable. As for collaborations, she's open. Niko likes to work with artists with an energy that can match hers.  Music is undeniably Niko's calling, which became abundantly clear when she quit producing for a few years to study law. She tried to do both, but playing nocturnal shows on weekends and turning up to class the following Monday became unsustainable. While separated from music, she felt its significant absence and quit her stressful job as a lawyer to return to her passion.  "Music also makes me independent, if something happens in my life, you know like break up, or whatever… I just sit in the studio, I make music, instead of crying and make drama and overthinking. I'm just focusing on something, and music makes me happy and free." Niko radiates positivity and hopes to spread joy to those dancing at her shows. She often holds up her hands in the shape of a heart for the crowd. Recently she has adopted a pre-show ritual where she steps into the DJ booth and envisions rays of gold light emanating from her body out into the crowd.  Sessions with a somatic psychologist introduced this ritual to her life, and it's working well, "I don't know, maybe I'm crazy, but it's working." She laughs it off, but she believes in her practice, "So before I come to play, I go to DJ booth, and sometimes I close my eyes, sometimes I'm just looking at the crowd, and I imagine a gold ray coming out of my chest and going in the people, in the crowd. … I'm feeling the energy, and the room is high. It's so high, I start to have goosebumps." Her glowing confidence and newfound meditation practice have kept her going throughout the pandemic, while live music was hit hard. Niko feels an artist must create during difficult times and thus released Ambient Meditation Mix (Manifestation of Love).  As the world opens, offers for the gigs of her dreams flood her inbox. Still, many shows get canceled. So when disappointment strikes, she reminds herself of where she is now and how far she has come, and she can't help but be grateful.  The greatest feeling comes when listeners connect with her music, "People who really understand how much you put into looking for this music, making this music and then you share this music, and you share this message, and they say to you, 'You changed my life,' and its priceless. I'm so addicted to that."