By now we all know, regardless of the language utilized, music is international. Globalization and streaming services have facilitated the spread of foreign content. Quality music steps out the boundaries. Over time and with the evolution of urban music, people have begun to give ever-greater importance to productions and melodies. Thus paying less attention to song lyrics. A club hit in 2019 just needs to sound good, no matter what is being said. Let’s look for example at the worldwide success of Latin music. The same can be said about Aya Nakamura‘s explosion. We talked about her a few days with the remix of ‘Pookie‘ with Capo Plaza, but now let’s get to know her better.
Who’s Aya Nakamura?
Born in Mali, but raised in France, and nowadays French full-fledged, Aya Nakamura (who has nothing to do with Japan, her is an art surname) came like a cyclone in the charts. ‘Djadja’ entered the charts directly in the first place and stayed there for three weeks and won the platinum record, which comes with 250,000 copies in France
A success that came in just two years for this girl who started uploading her works on Facebook and on Youtube, passing from the zouk, the typical music of the French overseas territories, to move up to pop and R&B.
”Djadja” has been hailed as an anthem for female empowerment and taken on a life of its own: Nakamura’s image was used on posters during recent French protests confronting violence against women. Yet the singer is equivocal about the reaction.
“It’s cool to be able to represent black women in France. But I have my own way of being, my own way of doing things. There’s a problem when people say, ‘You’re the only black woman representing’. There are others too.”
She says about her image.
Nakamura was adopted as a stage name, inspired by a character from superhero drama ‘Heroes’ – she came to live in Aulnay-sous-Bois in the suburbs of Paris with her family when she was a baby. Her mother was a griotte, a traditional Malian poet or singer. This played a big part in Nakamura’s life growing up in France. In her house, uncles and aunts played a big role in teaching the younger ones about Malian culture.
As Aya grew older, her passion for music became significant enough that she ultimately left high school a year before graduating. She used to sing all the time at her house, so her sister and friends helped her to find a studio and a way to record there. She recorded her first song “J’ai mal” (“I’m hurting” in French), a mellow teenage zouk love ballad. Aya shot a video with some friends and uploaded it on YouTube, where it became a local sensation; her longtime friend Dembo Camara quit his job as a salesperson to become her producer and manager, and she’s since released tracks like “Brisé” and nabbed a feature on rapper Fababy’s ‘Love d’un voyou’. It generated more than 50 million views on YouTube, but it was ‘Comportement,’ the first single from her debut Journal Intime, that characterized Aya’s sound.
Her sound is made to whine up and feel your body. She mostly listens to dancehall artist like Gyptian and Popcaan. On NAKAMURA, those influences are shown on tracks like ‘Sucette’ with Niska or the reggaeton-flavored ‘Pookie’. NAKAMURA celebrates diasporic sounds through the feel of R&B, adding a cohesiveness to her artistry directly informed by her experience growing up in one of the most cosmopolitan parts of Europe.
One could perceive Aya’s success as uncanny. Despite being the blackest country in Europe, France has seen very few black women break out in the music industry on a mainstream level these past fifteen years. People would ask her to bleach her skin or wear a lighter foundation to appeal to a broader audience.
The French artist matches afrobeat to R&B, hip-hop to pop, producing something that is completely accessible, totally addictive, and yet still has that underground flavor. If you haven’t yet, check out her album NAKAMURA below.
Don’t forget to let us know that do you thing about her!