how Aya Nakamura conquered the world without a wish

Without seeking international recognition, Aya Nakamura who released her fourth album this Friday, DNKhas established herself as the most listened to French singer in the world.

In less than two years, the music of Aya Nakamura, who released her fourth album, DNK this Friday, has conquered the French public and has transcended French borders to find audiences in the United States, Asia, or South America.

That’s with the album Nakamurawas released in 2018, that Aya Nakamura’s success took an international turn and she became the most listened to French female artist in the world on Spotify.

Since then, the French-Malian artist has been everywhere: she is listened to by Madonna, Rihanna or Sam Smith, appears in American magazines The New York Times and Forbes, quoted in reboot from Prince of Belair, shown in gigantic format in Times Square, was invited to a concert at the American game Fortnite. And during his visit to Paris, in July 2022, the American singer Alicia’s lock invited her to the Bercy stage to perform a hit song with him Djadja.

However, unlike other artists, such as Stromae, who envisioned an international career from an early age, Aya Nakamura never had ambitions to conquer the international scene. She sings in French and has never given a concert outside of France since the start of her career.

“I didn’t say to myself ‘I’m going to be an international star’, ‘this voice is going to be international’, ‘this voice is going to tour everywhere in Asia’. I never said that to myself”, he told journalist Mehdi Maïzi in December 2021.

The artist even admitted that he was surprised to learn that his music was listened to by listeners from all over the world to Asia or South America.

“I see crazy countries like Chile… I’m amazed every time. It’s not necessarily the country that’s targeted and that’s where you see the magic of music. When you love it, […] there are no rules”, assured Aya Nakamura on the show Base in 2020.

“I do Aya”

There are no rules, but the recipes, Aya’s style. Since her debut in 2014, Aya Nakamura has developed a style inspired by various influences, drawing on her Malian origins and mixing zouk, afropop, rap, dancehall or even R’n’B, which has allowed her to unite a large audience.

But beyond the limitless array of voices unique to her, Aya Nakamura also offers phrases that are new and easy to sing, juggling between Anglicisms, slang or onomatopoeia. A language that even non-French speakers give up, no offense to some of its detractors.

“There’s slang, there’s Afro, it’s moving and maybe my voice likes it,” the singer confided in the event’s microphone Actual infoto explain the reasons for its international success.

The formula that the artist summarizes in a simple way: “I do Aya”. “I managed to do the pop, tomorrow I’m going to do the zouk… But it’s still the same way of singing. My phrasing is also what makes it ‘Aya'”, he explained, into the BFMTV mic.

Consecration of “Djadja”.

That with his first punch, Djadja, released in 2018, the singer conquered the French public and crossed boundaries. With a catchy chorus and easy to sing (Oh Djadja, it can’t be Djadja), a song that has been watched more than 900 million times on YouTube, has captured the hearts of the whole world.

As far as the Netherlands, where for the first time since 1961, a French-language song by a female artist climbed to the top of the charts then. Aya thus dethroned Edith Piaf, who had previously accomplished this feat I don’t regret anything.

“With Aya, making music in French, you’d think her potential international audience was limited, but it’s not at all. We’ve never seen that,” said Loan Paturle, head of international development for the label Rec. 118 (Aya Nakamura’s label), in the newspaper column World.

This success thus allowed her to be named in the best international artist category at the BET Awards in 2019 – a first for a French female artist – but also to earn a place in the prestigious program of the prestigious American festival Coachella in 2020 (which has yet to never happen due to the pandemic). ).

Named French Artist of the Year at the Apple Music Awards at the end of 2021, he confided in journalist Mehdi Maïzi, not too sorry to miss this opportunity. “I was a little nervous, but I was like ‘it’s okay’. I really believe in destiny. If I had to do Coachella, I would do it. I feel so honored to have been invited.”

Respected by Rihanna and Madonna

Djadja also make international stars dance. In 2019, pop star Madonna filmed her troupe of dancers “swaying” to the famous song backstage at a concert.

The following year, the 64-year-old artist did it again and filmed his two daughters, who both listen to and sing this hit. Another consecration to Aya Nakamura: in 2020 singer Rihanna appeared in rotation on social networks dancing on Djadja one night.

“I was so shocked. When I saw international stars like Madonna or Rihanna singing or dancing to my and other people’s songs in French, I told myself that music really has no boundaries”, Aya Nakamura’s reaction to that era in the column Paris.

Adding irony: “I thought Americans had a problem with foreign languages, this proves otherwise to me.”

The power of social networking has even taken Aya Nakamura’s voice to other parts of the world. By the end of 2022, his music has gained astounding popularity on this side of the Pacific Ocean thanks to Steve West. Hailing from New Caledonia, this amateur DJ remixed the song Nirvana by Aya Nakamura, from her album yeswhich is currently viral on TikTok.

Quickly the title was included in over 2 million videos, mainly in Asian countries and allowed Aya Nakamura to conquer new audiences, and this, without any marketing strategy. “This is the month”, even the diva commented World.

“Her music echoes in places where nothing Aya ever planned perfectly describes the way the world is interconnected today”, analyzes Loan Paturle in ‘World’.

“I don’t want to be an American star”

Aya Nakamura had the opportunity to collaborate with international stars. Whether in rap, pop, or reggaeton, everyone’s asking for a verse. This is the case for American DJ trio Major Lazer, who collaborated with Aya Nakamura in 2021 on the title It’s cookedwith rapper Swae Lee.

“I’ve wanted to work with her for a long time, she’s unique, she’s the queen of this sound mix, a little bit West African, a little Caribbean too, a little zouk, a little dancehall, a little Afro-pop,” Diplo, a member of the Major Lazer trio, told AFP.

On her own album, Aya Nakamura also features international guests, such as British artists Stormzy and Ms Banks, on her album Aya (2020) or Puerto Rican rapper Myke Towers, on her new project. DNK.

But Aya Nakamura’s ambitions here are more musical than commercial. Far from aiming to seek listeners in other countries at all costs, the singer only claims to have worked with these artists because he finds that “the music sticks well” with the universe.

“When people ask me: how does it feel to be known internationally, I tell them: ‘I’m not euphoric,'” he told AFP in 2020.

And in closing, in an interview with the newspaper World: “It’s very hard to find your audience there (in the United States, editor’s note) when you’re French. I didn’t want to be an American star. I’m quiet.”

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