Music

Afropop musician who’s in demand comes to Nairobi

ayra

Nigerian artist AYRA STARR who headlines a Valentine's themed concert in Nairobi this weekend. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • This weekend, Kenyan music fans will finally get to watch the red hot Afropop star Ayra Starr perform in the country for the first time when she headlines a pre-Valentine’s Day concert.
  • Ayra will perform alongside Bien Aime Baraza of Sauti Sol during the “Bald Men Love Better” show at the Impala Grounds, Nairobi.
  • Last November, Ayra was named as Spotify EQUAL Artist of the Month, fronting a campaign to foster gender equality and provide a platform for female creators.

She is just 19 but has already been tipped as one of this year’s biggest musical prospects by respected industry insiders and reputed publications, from Rolling Stone to Vogue.

This weekend, Kenyan music fans will finally get to watch the red hot Afropop star Ayra Starr perform in the country for the first time when she headlines a pre-Valentine’s Day concert.

Ayra will perform alongside Bien Aime Baraza of Sauti Sol during the “Bald Men Love Better” show at the Impala Grounds, Nairobi. But just who is this youngster who has caught the attention of music critics and fans around the world in the space of a little over one year?

Rolling Stone described the ‘sharp and swift ascent’ of a singer who ‘spins heartfelt tales of life’s fleeting and uncontrollable nature, of its devastating heartbreaks, and of choosing to thrive despite them.’

Last November, Ayra was named as Spotify EQUAL Artist of the Month, fronting a campaign to foster gender equality and provide a platform for female creators by one of the world’s largest music streaming services.

Spotify described her as representing a new generation of female artists whose creativity and determination breaks barriers between genres.

Vogue magazine was wowed by her Instagram style and also tipped her as one of the musicians set to rule 2022 with music that is ‘flawlessly conceived and beautifully sung’.

British music publication NME praised her ability to vary her afro-pop sound with hints of R&B which ‘comes with a confidence that few stars have so early in their career.’

Everywhere you look, it seems Ayra Starr is the name of the lips of those who make it their business to spot the hottest emerging talents in the music business.

Ayra describes her sound as Afro-Soul, a contemporary sound drawing influenced by her cultural heritage of Yoruba and Beninese music. According to her, the music speaks for a generation of girls around the world who are discovering themselves, united by angst and emojis.

Her critically acclaimed debut album “19 and Dangerous” was recorded with renowned Nigerian producer and record executive Don Jazzy who has been the creative force behind some of the success stories in Afropop, from pioneers like D’Banj to current stars like Tiwa Savage and Rema.

The album was a follow-up to the release of an EP in January 2021 also produced by Don Jazzy with five songs reflecting on growth, love, and changes from the perspective of the artist’s own demographic, popularly known as Generation Z.

She already sent early signs about her songwriting prowess with the powerful lead single from the EP “Away” about a woman finding the strength to move on from an undeserving lover.

With lyrics mixing English, Nigerian Pidgin, and Yoruba, the 11-track album follows a Generation Z girl transitioning from adolescence into early adulthood with a style that is primarily Afropop, with sprinklings of R&B, neo-soul, and jazz. The songs that are all self-written revolve around romantic breakup, betrayal, and heartbreak as well as self-esteem and empowerment.

The album was unveiled with the opening single, the neo-soul flavoured empowerment anthem “Bloody Samaritan”, a song that Ayra says challenges people of her age to take control of their lives and now bow to societal pressures.

Other stand-out tracks are “Lonely” about the vulnerability and innocence of young love, and “Beggie Beggie”, on the thrill of young love in today’s modern world featuring guest vocals from another red-hot Nigerian star CKay.

Oyinkansola Sarah Aderibigbe was born in Benin and raised between Benin and Nigeria.

While studying International Relations at the Houdegbe University in Benin, she started singing cover versions of songs by American R&B vocalist Andra Day and Nigerian star 2Face Idibia.

When she posted one of her original songs “Toxic” on Instagram, the producer Don Jazzy immediately took notice of her talent, reached out, and signed her to his label Mavin Records in June 2020.

She chose the name Starr because, according to her, she knew her destiny while “Ayra” is the Arabic word for honourable and respected.

Ayra Starr counts her influences as ranging from her mother, a former singer, who encouraged her to pursue music seriously, famous counterparts like Tiwa Savage, and Asa, and global superstars Beyonce, Rihanna, and Earth Kitt.

There has been huge anticipation among her fans in Kenyan on social media and there will be some very high expectations on the young shoulders of this Nigerian prodigy when she gets on stage in Nairobi tomorrow.