Ayra Starr, a top musician who recently received a Grammy nomination, has issued a public apology after a video surfaced showing her greeting music legend King Sunny Ade in a way that some deemed disrespectful.
The incident occurred at the Afrozon pre-Grammy party in Lagos, where a clip captured Starr, 21, shaking hands with the 77-year-old Ade without kneeling or bowing her head.
This prompted criticism from a segment of social media users, who accused the young singer of failing to show proper deference to her elder and cultural icon.
“The fact that Ayra Starr is a Yoruba girl makes this quite disrespectful no matter how you spin it,” wrote one Twitter user, @_AsiwajuLerry. “She must not go on her knees, but a simple knee gesture would do. The man even bowed his head out of respect for the person he was shaking, and she was there standing like a shigidi (slang for ‘stubborn child’).”
Others defended Starr, suggesting that the incident might have been unintentional or due to the chaotic nature of the event. “I believe Ayra Starr truly didn’t see King Sunny Ade very well yesterday night,” wrote @OlamideØfficial. “Aside from KSA’s legacy, he is old enough to be her grandfather, and she has no reason to disrespect him. It’s an unintentional mistake.”
The controversy was short-lived, as Starr quickly took to social media to apologize. “I’m so sorry, I had just walked in and all the lights and nerves didn’t let me see,” she wrote. “But I came back around to greet everyone properly. I have never been that girl to be disrespectful; I’m a proper Yoruba girl, and the video didn’t start until after I’d greeted Burna’s mom! I’m very sorry to the legend, uncle, and King Sunny Ade.”
The incident highlights the complex interplay between tradition and modernity in Nigerian society, where young celebrities are often expected to uphold respectful customs towards elders and cultural figures. While some saw Starr’s gesture as a harmless oversight, others viewed it as a symbol of a changing world where traditional deference no longer holds the same sway.
Starr’s nomination for a Grammy Award in the Best African Music Performance category for her song “Rush” suggests a burgeoning international career. Still, this brief brush with controversy serves as a reminder of the cultural expectations that come with rising fame.