b. Nicole Vergel De Dios, Seattle, Washington, USA. The New York-based soul jazz singer Niko was born of Japanese and Spanish parentage. She became well known on the Seattle live circuit for her exotic voice, culminating in her winning a scholarship to New School University in New York. It was here that Niko learnt the history of jazz and got seriously under the skin of the music, graduating with honours in 2002. During this period she was employed as a runner at a local venue called the Knitting Factory where by day she would do general duties, and by night would sing to the arty crowd. This first excursion into New York nightlife earned her some recognition, but also offered a more eclectic array of musical influences in the form of house, soul and hip-hop. In 2002, Niko formed her own band Nikosol. During the same year she also directed the music score for a film, resulting in Vibe magazine writing a feature on her. She put together a demo and did the rounds of the major record labels, but after several meetings she opted to choose the independent route, signing with the Manchester, England-based hip-hop label Grand Central Records. Her debut, Life On Earth, released in July 2004, featured a who’s who of the Grand Central Records artist roster, with production handled by Aim, Mr. Scruff and label co-owner Mark Rae (of Rae And Christian). The accomplished production perfectly complemented Niko’s luxurious, jazz-tinged vocal delivery.