Nicholas Laboy (born June 18, 1980 in Spanish Harlem/ El Barrio, New York) is a driven musician with innate and continuously growing talents, placing him among the top young percussionists in New York City. Niko or Nicky, as he is known in his professional circles, grew fond of music in his early childhood. His instruction began in a household surrounded by drums, bongos, congas, timbales and many other musical instruments. His father, Jose Laboy, his most influential figure, began to cultivate both technical skills and the value of artistic discipline in Niko from a young age. Niko’s musical aspirations as a young child who played on pots and pans in his mother’s kitchen eventually steered him toward formal musical training and cultivation of his innate respect and love for the drums.
Niko's formal instruction began at age 11 when his father enrolled him at the Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts—a renowned music school highly regarded for its commitment to teaching Latin music and percussion alongside other traditionally esteemed musical genres. Niko eagerly pursued music education at the Harbor, located only a block away from his home in the legendary "Spanish Harlem." It was at the Harbor where he later met his mentors and teachers: the acclaimed Johnny Almendra and highly regarded Ramon Rodriguez. Under the guidance of his mentors at the Harbor, Niko obtained skills in Afro-Cuban traditional rhythms, and began the rigorous training which would help improve his stamina and speed on the congas, bongos and timbales. Niko’s artistic skills and disciple were recognized through the granting of the first ever Tito Puente scholarship which supported him to study for over 3 consecutive years at Boys Harbor.
As Niko grew into a respected drummer and artist, he began playing professionally with various local groups in New York City. Niko is a current member of several notable Afro-Caribbean popular and sacred performance ensembles, including the Puerto Rican roots band, Yerbabuena. Niko is also a founding member of Ilu-Aye, an Afro-Caribbean music collective dedicated to preserving the rich African musical influences in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. Among his many noted contributions to these ensembles is his superb ability to arrange and direct the groups, adding his own innovative touches and musical flavor.
Niko’s other major collaborations and contributions include:
- Performances with Frankie Morales at the Copa Cabana in New York City.
- Collaboration with “Masters at Work,” a recording label. Niko worked alongside Louie Vega in performances from the compilation “The Elements of Life” at Opium Gardens in Miami, FL and in New York City. Recorded the highly praised percussion on "Steel Congo”, and Summer Nights in Spanish Harlem with House of Rhumba.
- Collaboration with Lou Gorbea on the production of a deep soulful house music label titled “Omi Tutu Ashe Productions.”
- Performances with the Cuban-fusion group Yerba Buena at Nokia Theater alongside Pedrito Martinez, Mauricio Herrera, Roman Diaz, and many more talented artists.
- Contract with Steel Vybe Entertainment for five months of performances in Singapore, including at The Ministry of Sound, and the super club Clinic.
- Collaboration with Michael Veal and Aqua Ife. Performed at the world famous Sons D’Hiver Jazz Festival in France.
- Original music performances for several plays at Teatro Pregones located in the Bronx. Plays and projects include: Dancing in My Cockroach Killers, Baile Cangrejero, The Oasis Project (Papo Vasquez production), Game Over, Until We Win, El Apagon, Harlem Hell fighters, and Aloha Boricua. Niko was connected with Teatro Pregones through recommendations by respected musicians Desmar Guevara, Anthony Carillo, Papo Vasquez, and John Benitez.
- The organization Los Pleneros de la 21 located in Spanish Harlem. In 2012 he traveled to Thailand with LP21 to perform at the World Music Festival in Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, and Bangkok.
- Performed with the well known salsa group Ocho Y Mas with the referral of Bobby Allende. Backing up Tito Nieves at several performances in NYC, Philadelphia, and New Jersey. 2013
One of his many goals in music is to spread his musical knowledge in an attempt to preserve and promote Afro-Caribbean musical traditions while also performing for main stream events in many different genre styles. Niko has additionally taught various percussion classes and Afro-Caribbean workshops throughout NYC, Florida, Thailand, Singapore, and France. Several recordings are in the works.
Groups performed with, help form, or directed musically:
- Yerbabuena - (Urban Jibaros – Music from Puerto Rico) Musical Director
- Yerba Buena - (Afro Cuban Funk) Guest artist
- Ilu Aye - (Afro-Caribbean Music) Co founder
- Caja Dura - (Afro Cuban Religious) Founder
- House Of Rhumba - (House Music Percussion Duo) Co-Partner
- Siembra Maestra - (Afro World Music Grooves) Performer
- Los Pleneros de la 21- (Afro Puerto Rican) Performer
- Plena Sin Fronteras - (Afro Puerto Rican) Guest Artist
- Oba Ire - (Afro Cuban- Lucumi) Performer
- Felix Sanabria y Los Afortunados - (Afro Caribbean) Performer
- Con Licencia - (Afro Caribbean) Founder
- Flaco Navaja & the Razorblades- (Salsa) Performer
- Ocho Y Mas- (Salsa) Guest Artist
- Yasmeen- (World Music Trio) Performer
- Taller Sica- (Afro Caribbean) Guest artist
- Pregones Teatro Music Ensemble - (World) Music Ensemble
Niko believes that only certain people are born and made to do the things that we do. It is up to “Us” to continue the tradition of our ancestors and families in order for our music to grow, nourish, and stay alive for our young ones to embrace it.