We talk to the rising Nigerian star about growing up between Cotonou & Lagos, meeting Don Jazzy and how she made her explosive debut EP.
When Oyinkansola Sarah Aderibigbe—now better known as Ayra Starr—was in university, she was often complimented for her vocal skills. "I would just be singing and people would be like you have such a great voice,'' she tells OkayAfrica over a Zoom conversation. Because of this, her friends kept telling her to consider recording covers of songs to share on social media. Ayra refused—not to make the videos, but to post them—because she was shy.
Eventually, she allowed her friends to share her covers on their own social media channels. Ayra would try to stay away and not keep track of people's reactions to them, but each time she would fail and end up going to the comments section, she'd be surprised at the overwhelming support. ''The first time I did a cover it was crazy, people just went mad. I was shocked, like 'wow, people really like the music.'''
The support that helped her the most in deciding to pursue music full-time, however, was that of her mother. ''My mum would call me from home and be like 'Oyinkansola, do music''' Ayra remembers. ''She would say, 'music is for you', 'God wants you to do music.' She would even check up on me to ask if I had posted on social media.''
Arya Starr's childhood was soundtracked by the musical greats of the time—2Baba, Wande Coal, Tope Alabi. Being born into a musical family also helped. ''Everybody loved music. It was a musical home, and I listened to a lot of different types of sounds. From there I joined the choir when I was like eight or ten," Ayra says.