A Quick Thing on Ayra Starr – Adeniyi Odukoya

Afrobeats, a genre with its roots in West Africa, merges highlife fuji, soul, jazz, and funk. Decade after decade, it has gotten bigger, attracting a wider audience with songs that have become global anthems. Wizkid, Davido, Burna boy and Ckay have ensured that Afrobeats blossom beyond Africa. They have carried on the legacy, and we see the result of their respective hard work. Fela and others  laid the foundation of Afrobeats in the 70s and 80s,. Now, the legacy is being sustained by the aforementioned artists.

History has been unkind to women like Sandra Izsadore, Christy Essien-Igbokwe, Lijadu Sisters, Christy Ogbah, and Mona Finnih who alongside their male counterparts played a massive role in the evolution of Nigerian music. The relative lack of female voices in the Afrobeat is like history repeating itself. The meteroric rise of Tems  who arrived with her widely-accepted song, ‘Try me’ and helmed Big Wiz’s ‘Essence’ has been the exception of sort.  Before Tems, Afrobeats had a rota of female acts like Tiwa Savage, Seyi Shay, Yemi Alade and Simi. Yemi Alade, the self-acclaimed Mama of Africa, bagged her first Grammy Award via her collaboration on Angelique Kidjo’s Mother Nature. Tiwa Savage, Mama Jam Jam, holds her forte with a gazillion of awards and mind-blowing top-charting songs. Unfortunately, their wins are dampened as they mostly assists and collaborations.

Regardless, the younger ones are putting in the work, trying to catch up. With a good number of new-exciting female artists springing up, it could only get better. Talk about Fave, Amaarae, Good Girl LA, Liya, Gyakie and Ayra Starr.  Ayra Starr’s debut album is a good bargain.  A bold fusion of RnB, Neo Soul, and Afro-Pop percussion, from the first track.

19 is Ayra’s age. Dangerous on the other end is a broad extension of what to expect from female artists in years to come. For sure, Ayra might not have been inclusive of other female artists with this title, it aligns with the zeitgiest.

With varying themes, the psychological background behind Ayra’s 19 and Dangerous is worthy of commendation. 19 and dangerous comprises eleven songs produced by Louddaa, Andre Vibez, Don Jazzy and London. The first track ‘Cast’ is a musical representation of Ayra’s liberalism. It challenges stereotypes. It opens with a thrill which gradually shapeshifts into a fast reggaeton tempo enabled by the bouncy thumps between the lyrics.

Ayra Starr’s strength lies in her profound lyrics and delivery. ‘Bloody Samaritan’ aligns impeccable production, soothing hook and immersive vocal pact to a formidable triptych. ‘Fashion Killer’, the second track on the album, is a groovy, club-like banger. ‘Beggie Beggie’, a personal favourite, stands out with its delicate strum of acoustic and bass guitar- the lyricism is fluid and eye-catching.

Ayra’s collaboration with African-American singer Foushee illustrates her as one who is willing to work with other female artists. One might argue against her decision but  she is a newcomer, she should be given time. With time, there’d be more collaborations from Ayra with her female counterparts hopefully.

Afrobeats is in safe hands. Ayra Starr seems to understand the game. With the right mentality, management and work ethic, Ayra is ready to fill the gap between contemporary afrobeat female singers and their male counterparts. Maybe, one day, she would be shutting down the O2 Arena just like Wizkid and Burna boy.


This is Adeniyi Odukoya’s debut with The Lagos Review


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