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Aya Nakamura: afropop's reluctant face of empowerment

Her songs have been hailed as anthems against sexual violence, but the French star insists she has more personal goals in sight

With its sweet melody over a beat made for couples’ dancing, Aya Nakamura’s track Djadja sounds, to anglophone ears, like a love song. With the video fast approaching 300m views on YouTube, this catchy afropop song made Nakamura’s The Queen of the French urban music scene last year. But while the 23-year-old’s voice playfully switches between singing and soft rap, the bittersweet track finds Nakamura calling out a guy who has been lying about having sex with her. “You think about me while I think about making money,” she sings (in French), witheringly. “I’m not your mother / I’m not going to lecture you.”

The song 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,” she says, “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.”

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