Namara Rwakatare, Contributing Writer
The Malian-French artist Aya Daniako, formally known as Aya Nakamura, is a powerful force that is taking the music scene by storm with her latest album “DNK.” As a dark-skinned and Malian woman in France, Daniako has been subject to sexism, racism and colorism. She has had to create a space for herself in the industry. Today, she is able to use her platform to inspire us to live our truths and find confidence by recognizing our worth. This album invites us to get personal with Aya who steps out of her role as the performer Nakamura and welcomes us to get to know a different part of her as Daniako.
The album kicks off with “Corazón” where the themes of navigating relationships and heartbreak are explored. Daniako dives deep into the difficulties of longing for a love that just isn’t working out, allowing herself to exist in that space and giving herself permission to have those emotions. Self-acceptance and empathy in our relationships can be difficult to grapple with, especially when considering how one’s social identities may intersect with their experience of love and relationships. Daniako reaffirms that these feelings are valid and encourages us to give ourselves and others grace when navigating relationships.
The hit song “SMS” is a call for human decency and respect from her partner. Throughout the song, Daniako demonstrates patience and understanding towards them and asks only that they communicate with her – “Juste un SMS” (translation: just send a message). Daniako knows what she brings to the table and what she deserves in a relationship. She makes clear that anything less will not be accepted and demands that her partner treats her better and accepts responsibility for their wrongs – “Fais doucement d’abord. Peux-tu déjà mieux assumer tes torts?”
Daniako has experienced many ups and downs when it comes to her romantic relationships, which many are able to relate to. Her music serves as a safe space for listeners to reflect on their identities and how it impacts their experiences with love, intimacy and emotional vulnerability. From being cautious in relationships, presented in “Cadeau,” to dealing with the emotional pain inflicted by others in “J’ai mal,” listeners can appreciate the openness and honesty that Daniako expresses in her relationships and are encouraged to do the same.
The album concludes with an evolution of Daniako. The last three songs on this album present a powerful shift in her tolerance to partners with no intent and how she reacts to them. In “Haut Niveau,” she inspires listeners to recognize their worth and to only welcome those who can see and appreciate their value. “Bloqué” further explores this concept and urges us to let go of those who are not adding value to our life. The album ends with “Fin,” where Daniako establishes that she is “à part, [elle] est à part. Tu veux trouver comme moi, y a pas” (translation: She is unique/special. You want to find someone like her, but you won’t). Because Daniako realizes her worth and is intolerant of people that don’t appreciate her and what she has to offer, in the end she is willing to walk away and leave what isn’t serving her behind.