Heitor Salatiel


aya bass and the power of black womxn singers

November 14, 2019
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Larissa Luz, Xênia França, and Luedji Luna are three singers from Bahia. They’ve all made names for themselves on the Brazilian music scene, through an explosive combination of style and unapologetic Black pride. Collectively known as Aya Bass, the three goddesses will make a rare group appearance at “Black To The Future,” a celebration that AFROPUNK is present in São Paulo on November 19th, in conjunction with Feira Preta.

The Aya Bass collaboration was conceived as one-off, meant to coincide with last summer’s Carnival in Salvador; but it was so successful that the three women are bringing the act back to São Paulo. During that 2019 Carnival, Larissa, Xênia and Luedji all performed reclaimed songs by Black axé singers, who have always received less recognition and visibility than their white Brazilian counterparts. It was then that their powerful performance caught AFROPUNK’s attention.

The name Aya Bass is a play on the word “Yabás,” the collective name of the female deities of Afro-Brazilian spiritual practice, Candomblé. With an all-Black women band, Aya Bass covered the music of other Black women singers — both Brazilian and global — including songs by Miriam Makeba, Margareth Menezes, Elza Soares, Aretha Franklin, and Destiny’s Child. (In fact, singing songs by Beyonce’s former group earned the trio the affectionate nickname of “Nordestiny Child,” a reference to the northeast region of Brazil in which these all three were born.)

Though Luedji, Xenia, and Larissa each have their own distinctive styles and rising careers, they’ve been grouped together in th epublic’s imagination because all emerged on the national scene with a sound distinct from commercial axé music — a genre of Afro-Brazilian origins (spiritual and musical), which has in recent years largely come to exclude Black singers.

There is a good chance that the program Aya Bass will present at the “Black To The Future” party may be different from what was seen in Salvador during Carnival, with more emphasis on songs written by Luz, França, and Luna, and more interaction between them. This collaboration on each artist’s songs promises to create a great moment celebrating Black female collectivity, ancestral and futuristic. It will be punctuated by song-specific visuals, tracing through feminine-centric narrative, the powers and archetypes of each poetically invoked, female orixá.

Larissa Luz began her career singing at Carnival as part of Ara Ketu, a popular axé band from Salvador, before going solo with her own compositions, which have hints of electronic music. Xenia França makes music closer to jazz, with overtones of pop, R&B and music from the whole of the African diaspora and has been nominated for Latin Grammy awards. And Luedji Luna writes more poetic and sentimental songs, which connect her to the new, youthful wave of Brazilian music.

Luedji, Xenia, and Larissa made history this year when they became the first Black singers to lead a Trio Elétrico* at Salvador’s main carnival route, which runs along the city’s beautiful edge. This is the most commercial stretch of Salvador’s Carnaval, full of paid cabins, abbots and sponsors. And although Salvador is a city with 80% Black population, few Black Brazilians on the scene have reached the level of prominence that these three singers have.

Larissa Luz believes Aya Bass marks an important point for Brazilian music, showing the union of Black women working together, while also creating new Bahian music: “People are used to seeing women quarreling, competing and competing. We are here to show that together we are solid and we can create an homage to the great black singers of the world.”

* Trio Elétrico is the name we give to a truck equipped with an extremely high power sound system and a music group on top of it. The music group plays for the crowd – more than thousands of people – which go around some streets and places dancing and having lots of fun.

Aya Bass plays at “AFROPUNK x Feira Preta presnts ‘Black To the Future’,” at Audio, São Paulo, on November 19th