Ayra Starr can usually be found in her signature platform boots, mini skirt, long cascading braids and wrap around sunglasses. In press photos, she tends to be flanked by the other, mostly male, hit-makers of Don Jazzy’s infamous record label Mavin; together they stand like an alté family. Starr is Mavin’s resident bad bitch, the fierce voice behind a string of hits including “Always” and “Bloody Samiratian”, both from her debut 19 & Dangerous, which dropped last August.
In some ways success came quickly for Starr. After auditioning for Don Jazzy in early 2020, she was signed to his label later that year. This signing proved formative: it was through Mavin that she’d begin to develop her signature sound, a mixture of head neosoul, Afrobeat rhythms and R&B inflections. There is a depth to Ayra’s voice that belies her age, but she never stops being fun. In part that’s achieved through her look and her ability to blend the influence of older artists like Eartha Kitt with the sonic innovation of her fellow Afrobeat stars.
As a young Nigerian woman thriving in the male dominated West African music scene, everything Ayra does is breaking new ground and expanding what a conservative society let’s women do and be. In her music Ayra is at her most confident and powerful; she sings about falling in love and out of it with an assuredness that suggests no man could ever disrupt her sense of self. In committing this sentiment to music, she invites other young women listening to feel the same. She is the moment.
Text Gazelle Mba