The word "nikan" exists in a variety of cultures around the world: to the Yoruba people of Africa (and Cuba) it means "alone," and to the Persian populace it means "one who brings good things." Closer to home for Toronto-based multi-instrumentalist Brandon Valdivia, in the language of the Potawatomi people (the Indigenous people of what is now the United States great lakes region), the word means "my friend."
Nikan is Valdivia's third solo album released under the Mas Aya banner, and is the first to feature Josh Cole (bassist for Martha Wainwright and Bernice) in the role of producer. The album finds him continuing to cross-pollinate his own singular vision with the various musical styles of North, South, and Central America. Across eight highly charged yet intriguing tracks, Valdivia — who also plays in Not the Wind Not the Flag with Colin Fisher and who frequently collaborates with Lido Pimienta — deploys drum machines and synths alongside the Colombian kuisi flute, the tambora drum and a host of other wind and percussion instruments.
The resulting music is at times danceable and at others introspective. Lyrically, Valdivia explores themes of indigenous solidarity, state-operated security systems, positivity and hope, and the selective manipulation of history — sung in both English and Spanish.
Both Pimienta (lyrics, vocals) and Fisher guest on Nikan, showcasing the tightknit fellowship that Valdivia and his musical community have established. This sense of closeness and collaboration is paramount to a musician such as Valdivia, as it allows the urgency of his message and the beauty of his music to be echoed and amplified. His unique resonance is a beacon of fellowship. (Independent)