“I grew up with no French black female icons.
“It’s time to change that,” said 24-year-old Aya Nakamura, a black woman ruling the music scene in France, an industry that is known to favor lighter-skinned artists.
Abandoning high school before graduation, she began singing at 19, and in just four years, the French-Malian pop star became a household name in France and beyond.
Famed for her song “Djadja,” which has more than 400 million views on YouTube, Nakamura last year became the most streamed French female artist in France and the world.
Topping major charts, her songs deal with friendships and relationships but most importantly, her songs have been used to raise awareness about sexual violence and female empowerment.
As a matter of fact, the lyrics of her hit song ‘Djadja’ recently appeared on placards during protests against sexual violence.
In the track ‘Djadja’, Nakamura hits hard at a guy who has been lying about having sex with her.
The song would crown her the “queen of the French urban music scene” last year, with her 2018 album scoring seven top tens on the French singles chart, the first time a female artist has gone that far, Forbes said.
“The way she has built a name for herself in a male-dominated world is a source of inspiration for so many young girls and women,” Malian singer Oumou Sangaré said of Nakamura. “She is a shining star for countless youth, and shining stars always bother people.”
Combining R&B with the danceable rhythms of Afropop, the French-Malian artist sings in French, though she borrows expressions from English, Arabic and her mother language, Bambara.
Born Aya Danioko in Bamako, Mali on May 10, 1995, she later adopted the stage name Nakamura from the superhero drama Heroes. While a baby, her family moved to Aulnay-sous-Bois in Paris.
Despite being an area associated with crime, this had no effect on her development, having been trained by a family of griots.
“If you come from a line of griots you’re automatically categorised by that,” said Nakamura, whose mother was a griotte. “They tell people’s stories in the villages, and basically performed the role of the media for previous generations.”
The eldest of five siblings, Nakamura studied fashion before launching into music, releasing “Karma” and “J’ai mal”, which she published online.
In 2017, she launched her first album called Diary but it was her second album containing the hit song “Djadja” which gave her the first big break in the music industry.
Despite her music becoming an anthem for female empowerment, Nakamura stressed that her music is not all about feminism but to “change how the success of women is perceived in France, especially for black women,” writes New York Times.
“Women in the French music industry are compelled to make no waves.” “I show off.”
“A black woman doing this here is new, and shocking for many,” she said.
For her fashion designer Simon Porte Jacquemus, Nakamura’s language is “raw, sincere, pure.”
“It’s appealing to our whole generation, whether we are men or women, black or not.”