Bearing in mind that Czechoslovakia was under Soviet rule until 1989, and Slovakia only gained independence in 1993 separating from the now Czech Republic in what was dubbed the “Velvet Divorce,” it’s not surprising that the nation has been playing musical catch-up a little bit. Consider the restricted access to Western art prior to ’89, and it’s amazing how quickly things have developed, particularly regarding electronic music.
But develop they have. There’s a Slovakian scene that includes celebrated producer Jimmy Pé, trance DJ Driftmoon, and eclectic artist FVLCRVM. Add Nifra to that growing list. The woman born as Nikoleta Frajkorova was 16 when she started to create music.
“At that time I discovered the DAW [Digital Audio Workstation] Fruity Loops, and I could totally get lost in it and completely forget about the time trying to figure out the software and how to actually make a track,” Nifra says. “I had no internet so it was all by intuition. It all started as a hobby, or a better way to say it: obsession. I think to succeed in the music industry you have to be completely obsessed with what you are doing and that has to come naturally.”
From that point on, all Nifra wanted to do was make music. “Obsession” is the right word — her art occupied all of her time as she remained remarkably focused.
“There was nothing else that caught my interest more than the world of DJs, nightclubs, events,” she says. “I love making my own music and to be on stage, I feel home there. So from the get-go I knew I will never give up chasing this dream and I’m glad I didn’t because after a couple of years, things started to change for real.”
Nifra’s sound is best described as progressive trance music — pulsating and energetic, but also hypnotic and entrancing. Back home in Slovakia, she says, the people love trance.
“I haven’t been living in my home country all together for 10 years, I think, but I do play there two to three times a year,” she says. “They love trance music! I have a huge following there and the crowd is always wild on the shows, so whenever I have a gig there I know it’s going to be worth it. You wouldn’t believe it but the most successful producers from Slovakia are all trance-oriented like Reorder or Driftmoon.”
Nifra has released a number of tracks and remixes up to now, mainly on Markus Schulz’s Coldharbour label but also via Armada. July 2019 saw the release of her own debut CD, Follow Me. It was, she says, her biggest project so far. That studio work translates to a great show when she’s out on tour.
“I mean you could look at it this way — touring is the result of the hours you spend in studio producing your tracks, because without it you can’t make it as an international touring artist,” she says. “When it comes to the actual show prep, it’s always good to have some kind of an idea what crowd I’m going to play for and selecting tracks that could be potentially dropped. And sometimes, you just change things up and play it by ear — depends on the vibe.”
It’s working. Nifra’s buzz is among the loudest in the trance world, and the lush vibes at her shows are practically tangible. After a decade in the game, she knows how to hold a crowd in the palm of her hand — how to select the right tracks and create the perfect atmosphere.
“When you are doing this for so long, in my case for over 10 years since the very, very beginning, you just keep on going and not looking back,” she says. “But when I do look back the evolution has been quite significant. I used to be a very shy girl in my teenage years and that’s not the best quality for a performing artist. Ha! But traveling around the world and playing countless clubs and festivals made me super confident in what I do and also as a person. I want to be as good at my craft as I can be and to make a difference for women in the trance genre.” Last year, she was nominated in the International Dance Music Awards (IDMA) in the category “Best Female Trance Artist” for the first time, and she was nominated this year as well.
Nifra continues to make huge strides for female DJs and producers in the electronic music world, which can still be full of misogyny. In terms of her work, her gender is largely irrelevant — she’s simply a great artist. See for yourself at Audio this week.
“I love the States,“ she says. “I’ve been a regular visitor since 2014 and I’ve done an insane amount of shows there. I have a nice history with the San Francisco Bay Area especially, because I played Audio in 2016 as a support act on Markus Schulz’s Watch the World tour, and people could also see me at POP NYE in 2016 at Oracle Arena, Ruby Skye, and The Midway last year as well.”
Nifra says that she’ll be dropping new tunes at Audio — some that have been released and others that were only recently finished. After that she’ll be finishing her North American tour, then returning home to finish her debut album. 2020, she says, will be big. Of that we have no doubt.
Nifra with Gene Xander and Jonny Atom, at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Mar. 19 at Audio.