The Glorious Wave

French singer Aya Nakamura faces racist backlash after being announced to sing during the Olympic Games opening ceremony.

The Olympic Games opening ceremony central to the debate.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced Aya Nakamura as performer during the Olympic Games opening ceremony. Set to perform a song by Édith Piaf, Aya Nakamura has been attacked everywhere in the media by far-right activists and parties.

Who is Aya Nakamura?

Aya Nakamura is the most listened-to French singer in the world, and with music known to everyone. She is the only woman in France top 20 bestselling albums in 2023. Her songs often mixes French, English and others languages.
She is already representing France every day. So why some people are disagreeing with her performing for one of France’s most important day?

© LP/Fred Dugit

Marine Le Pen, figure of the far-right party Rassemblement National said recently on France inter radio that Aya Nakamura was used by president Emmanuel Macron to ‘humiliate all French people’, because she ‘does not even sing in French’, which is rather untrue.

A target for far-right activists.

She was also the subject of a racist banner by far-right group Les Natifs. Meaning ‘No way Aya [as a reference to one of her song], this is Paris not Bamako market’ in reference to her Malian background. An investigation was open for racism.

French people facing their own contradictions.

© Kristy Sparow/ Getty Images

Aya Nakamura has always been proud of her background, and stands for racial and gender equality. They are not targeting her because of her songs, but because of who she is. French people have to make peace with their language and culture evolving with time.

This is not about Aya Nakamura, but about racism so deeply anchored in French society that people won’t accept a Black multilingual woman as a French symbol.

Reading to go further.

You can read this article by journalist Rokhaya Diallo on the subject, published on The Guardian. She argues that “Far-right politicians turned the discussion into an outraged narrative about how a Black woman from the banlieues could appropriate La Vie en Rose or any of the cherished repertoire of a national treasure such as Piaf.”