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Home Culture Aya Nakamura, the pop superstar and symbol of global France who drives the extreme right crazy | Culture

Aya Nakamura, the pop superstar and symbol of global France who drives the extreme right crazy | Culture

by News Room
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Aya Nakamura causes hives on the far right. Not because of her ideas, which she does not usually express, nor because of what she says or does. She irritates by singing what she sings and expressing herself how she expresses herself. To some, because she is who she is. A Frenchwoman born in Mali and raised in the Paris suburbs. A woman in the lyrics of her songs who mixes the language of Molière with the slang of the suburb. A pop superstar who symbolizes the global France of the 21st century and, at the same time, brings out the less friendly face of the homeland of human rights and banner of universal values.

The possibility of Aya Nakamura singing a song by Édith Piaf at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on July 26 led the ultra group Les Natifs (The Natives) to display a banner on a bridge last weekend. of the Seine that said: “This is Paris, not the Bamako market.” At a rally between Éric Zemmour, a polemicist turned politician, and Marion Maréchal, granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the audience responded with boos to the mention of the singer of hits such as Djadja. In the following days, not only politicians from the most radical fringe such as Zemmour and Maréchal, but also from the National Rally of Marine Le Pen, Marion’s aunt, joined in the criticism.

The Paris Prosecutor’s Office announced this Friday an investigation into “racist publications to the detriment of Aya Nakamura.” The investigation responds to a complaint from the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism (LICRA), which, in a message on social networks, describes Les Natifs as an “archaeo-racist group.” The rejection is more about these small groups or Zemmour and the RN. 49% of French people believe that it is a “bad idea” for her to sing Piaf at the Olympic Games; according to a survey by the Elabe institute; another, from Odoxa, raises the percentage to 63%.

Aya Nakamura, at Paris Fashion Week on February 28.Pascal Le Segretain (Getty Images/ Balmain)

There is a legitimate component of musical taste in this controversy that would be ephemeral if it were not for what it explains about the France of 2024 and a certain France of always. It reveals the discomfort of some at seeing a country that does not fit the imaginary country. A deputy from Le Pen’s party showed his displeasure with Aya Najamura and, when asked which artist he would like to represent France at the Olympic ceremony in her place, he cited, among others, Lara Fabian. But Lara Fabian is not French, but Belgian-Canadian. And she is white, a difference from Aya Nakamura, French since she acquired nationality in 2021.

The journalist and anti-racist activist Rokhaya Diallo remembers episodes such as the criticism of the rapper Youssoupha for singing a song of the soccer team at Euro 2021. Or the hostile reactions unleashed by the appointment in 2022, as Minister of Education, of the historian Pap Ndiaye. “What is happening is shameful, and it leaves a bad impression on the image of a France that presents itself as an open country, but that does not know how to recognize its children when they do not fit into the canons of what it imagines France to be,” Diallo says by phone. . “It reflects the difficulty of France in recognizing itself in a face that is not white and in an attitude that is associated with popular neighborhoods and in the suburbs”.

creative language

From the singer of Girlfriends “Their use of a creative, free language that does not exist to produce a classic literary exhibition is annoying,” according to sociologist Karim Hammou. In The world, Hammou remembers that the popular song of the mid-20th century “already played with catchy choruses and neologisms, or fashionable onomatopoeias to reach the maximum audience.” A classic song like Javaneseby Serge Gainsbourg, was made of puns and slang, and another like Let it goby Renaud, is Verlan, neighborhood slang that inverts the order of the syllables. And after all, isn’t the hero of French rock a singer who adopted a foreign name and imitated foreign music? We’re talking about Johnny Hallyday.

Aya Nakamura, like Johnny, uses a pseudonym. Nakamura is the surname of the Japanese character in the American series Heroes. Her real name is Aya Danioko. She is 28 years old. She is the eldest of five sisters and brothers. Her father worked in a bar at Charles de Gaulle airport. Her mother was griotte, storyteller in the African tradition. She was little when they arrived in France. She lived in Seine-Saint-Denis, the poorest department in France, north of Paris, and one of the most multicultural, young and dynamic. She began to stand out at the end of her adolescence with videos on social networks. She soon caught the attention of producers and, from there, to stardom.

On his albums, since Personal diary in 2017 to Nakamura in 2018 and DNA 2023, has outlined a style that critics define as a cross between African-American r’n’b with African rhythms and Antillean music like the zoo. There is something else: the linguistic inventiveness and the sexual allusions. And the attitude: woman, young, black, from the popular class and proud to be so. “I have always felt good in my skin,” she declared in an interview with Rokhaya Diallo for the magazine GQ. “I am a model for my sisters, my friends.” Aya Nakamura, admired by Madonna and Rihanna and image of the Lancôme brand, is a Rosalia of suburb: the most successful French-speaking singer.

That’s why it didn’t surprise anyone when the weekly L’Express He published that President Emmanuel Macron had proposed him to sing at the Olympic ceremony. If there was something shocking, it was that Macron got involved in the artistic organization of the Games, although in this monarchical Republic it is common for the head of State to get involved in all the details. But no one has confirmed the information and Aya Nakamura’s performance is pure speculation for now.

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