The landscape for Moonchild, as a result, became a creative playground where Zefanya could let her imagination run free and write for the album—which she did by naming each track first, then writing the corresponding songs, a process she has described as “super helpful, but also the bane of my existence. “I could naturally go there without thinking, ‘Would people understand this? Is this too crazy? ’ I just kind of said F that, and I’ll just write whatever I want.
Eventually, another Jakarta native whose music career was blowing up, Rich Brian, took notice of Zefanya’s voice. “He DM’ed me, and then we met up at a studio in Jakarta and we became demo buddies for a long time,” she explained. “He would send me demos, and I would send him demos and we would tell each other what we thought.
At the time she was making Moonchild, Zefanya’s mother was fatally ill; she had been for a long while. “It was hard to see her in pain all the time,” Zefanya said. “Everybody came to terms with it.
The genre constituted the rest of her musical diet during her formative years: Boyz II Men, Destiny’s Child, and the divas, like Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. “They’re these singers in this church in the middle of nowhere, and they were just bumping this music,” Zefanya laughed. “It’s the funniest combination.
Nicole Zefanya, a budding international pop star who goes by Niki, describes her hometown of Jakarta, Indonesia in a number of ways: effervescent, crowded, lively, a blend of authentic Indonesian hospitality and Southeast Asian commercialization, one of the friendliest places in the world.
She’d been hearing it for years, at home and inside the East Jakarta church. “Making music was kind of set in stone for me from the beginning,” Zefanya said.
They’d eat enormous glass bowlfuls of food, (Zefanya’s mom was the chef), and inevitably, a guitar would materialize, and the group would sing gospel songs once more. “Everybody would start harmonizing in three-part harmonies,” Zefanya said on the phone, from her new home in Los Angeles in March.
And when Zefanya was a kid, her mother sang gospel music at a church in East Jakarta.
Zefanya’s mother had been sent a flyer on WhatsApp, calling for video submissions from local singers who could win a chance to play for Swift.
She coaxed the young Zefanya to verify it on Swift’s website. “I swear to god, I didn’t even brush my hair, I didn’t change out of my clothes, I was just like, I’m gonna do this,” Zefanya said of making the video.
The first single from Moonchild, a song called Switchblade, dropped today, along with a video depicting Niki exploring an anime-like, forested world at night.
Since then, Zefanya has amassed over a million followers on Instagram, and has fans in Halsey and Bernie Sanders (or at least a member of Bernie Sanders’s social media team), who used her song Indigo in a recent promotional Tik Tok.