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The local songstress who temped while singing covers has had a change of fortune. She'll debut at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Sphere Entertainment Complex, 681 Main St. -- a new band, a new song list and a new day job.

"I Made It" is one of the tunes in the soul-vibrating lineup Nikki Hicks has written. The 32-year-old was named best rhythm and blues vocalist in the Buffalo Music Awards last year.

That was also when she lost her job and struggled to pay the bills. But now, she has a hospital post she loves, a nursing-school scholarship and a band that feels right.

"Singing is what I am," she said. "If I don't sing, I suffocate."

Instead of Soul Music Redemption, the Soul Music Souljas have old and new players on piano, sax, trumpet, drums and bass. For $15 advance or $17 at the door, listen to them show off what they have been rehearsing for the last two months.

"These are a bunch of Buffalo musicians who are so true to the music they just play anywhere," said Hicks. Call 852-3900, Ext. 10.

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