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Charlotte Amalie
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On Island Profile: Niyo-Rah

June 17, 2007 — "There is a certain amount of popularity that comes along with being an artist, but I'm not looking for that at all. I'm just looking to show love, and give love," says local reggae singer Niyo-Rah, who, at the age of 26, is rapidly becoming a major cultural icon to many youth throughout the Caribbean.
After spending just a few hours with him, however, it's hard not to see why many emulate him. While handsome, Niyo-Rah, born Nigel Olivacce, also exhibits a deep spirituality uncommon for many his age. He thinks about questions before giving answers, and makes sure his responses accurately reflect exactly who he is and what he tries to convey in his music.
In speaking about how he began his career, for example, Niyo-Rah explained that his primary focus while attending school in the territory was on sports such as soccer, basketball and volleyball. "I was full of energy," he said. "As an artist, though, I became interested in music when I was 18. God came to me, and I asked myself a question: what do you love to do? What can you see yourself doing for the rest of your life? I told myself that I'd like to wake up everyday and sing music, sing songs, and I just took it from there."
No stranger to some of the hardships facing many residents in the Virgin Islands, Niyo-Rah also puts forth a positive outlook on life, taking inspiration from his parents, past experiences and the teachings of Rastafarianism. While his music may not be considered religious, his words, whether used in everyday conversation or woven into a maze of conscious lyrics, convey a profound sense of devotion — not only to a certain spiritual being, but to humanity as a whole.
Niyo-Rah also seems to stray away from the pack by promoting a message of "peace and unconditional love."
"Trying to maintain the art of peace by showing unconditional love to both your friends and enemies is an important focus in my music," he says. "It's one of the messages I try to get through to the children that are listening. And I want to tell them not to be passive, not to allow anyone to put harm upon our community."
Though not a native of St .Thomas — the Olivacce family moved to the territory from Dominica in the early 1980s — local issues such as government corruption, social mishaps and failures within the education system are also at the forefront of discussion in Niyo-Rah's music.
"St. Thomas is my home. I was raised here, since I was three years-old," he says. "I could never deny St. Thomas, or my ties to the community here."
Niyo-Rah's "ties," which frequently come out in his music, touch a number of local individuals, neighborhoods and experiences, ranging from the streets of Savan to the moral and spiritual principles instilled in him by his parents, Bobby and Helen Olivacce.
"I had a very balanced childhood," Niyo-Rah says. "I got a great example at home from my parents, who, when I was a child, taught me what to do and what not to do, to be wise and to observe things before you step into them."
Some of the artist's musical inspiration also comes from his friends, such as members of the Star Lion Family, a reggae group he and six others co-founded in 1998.
"The Star Lion Family is my greatest inspiration when it comes to music," he said. "We were all in the Black Juice Records studio one day, with the goal of becoming solo artists. But we came together instead, and continued to keep each other charged about what we were doing. During practices, song writing, anything, we would constructively criticize one another and all have input in the production of songs."
While the group's members all went their separate ways around 2004, Niyo-Rah says they remain friends and continue to support each other in their endeavors. Remaining practical about the situation, he also explained that the group's focus on becoming reggae singers kept them from fully breaking into the music industry.
"We knew at one point that it would be too much money for promoters to invest in a group," he said. "It's difficult for labels to invest in a group of seven vocalists — we didn't really play instruments and we didn't really design ourselves as a band. So we thought the easiest way to pursue our goal was to do solo albums."
Emerging from the experience, Niyo-Rah has pushed forward on his path toward a musical career and taken time to delve into other fields of interest. "I've also become interested in musical production, arranging music through instruments, the mixing of tracks and vocals," he said. "I'm going to push the music as far as I can — get a couple of videos done, put them on Tempo, and see if we can tap into Europe as well, maybe do an African tour."
Showing his level-headed side, however, Niyo-Rah added that his movement in the musical field is "not fixed."
"I just want to continue to assist creation in any way I can," he said. "And continue to promote the message that we should all just live in unconditional love."
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