Bell suddenly turned to her mother and said, “Mom, I want to make it by 25.” Without hesitation, her mother responded, “You can make it now.”
That was all the encouragement she needed to dive headfirst into her music. Now 24, Bell, better known as “Ayana Aura,” (pictured) is working on her third EP titled, “Not Like You.” For years, the singer and songwriter brought her soulful voice to venues across Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.
“I make songs for sad girls, girls who want money or got money, girls who like girls, girls who are happy in their skin—all girls,” she said.
Bell was never one to take her music seriously. When she was younger, her mother would often catch her singing, using a hairbrush as a mic.
But, when she developed depression at 12 years old, singing became the only light she had left. It didn’t help that she felt like her family wasn’t paying much attention to her. But, when people would hear her sing, they would stop, listen, and admire her voice, and finally pay attention to her.
So, she kept singing. She started performing at local mic nights around her Milton Hershey High School. However, she did not start taking her music seriously until she was in college. Her friend introduced her to local musicians Hippyswizzy and Treble. As soon as they heard she sing they wanted her to join their group.
She and her group, called “Soullive,” had their first major performance in 2014 where they opened for Bow Wow for his 28th birthday party in New Castle.
“That was my first big crowd, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Bell said. “I messed up a couple of times, but that’s all a part of growth.”
After that, Bell started to work on music for herself. She released her first single, “717,” which was an ode to Harrisburg. The song was featured on her first EP, “City of Dreams,” released in 2017. The song makes her cringe to this day, though she reassures that it’s not a bad song. The reason why she cringes is because she knew she wasn’t really opening up in her music.
Her next EP, “Cupid Stupid,” features three anti-Valentine’s Day tracks where Bell talks about her struggles with finding love.
“I didn’t want to let people in with my music,” she said. “Now, I am being more honest with myself and with my music because I feel that there are other people out there who feel the same way I feel.”
Bell is currently brainstorming visuals to go with her latest song, “Netflix & Chill,” and crafting her next EP. According to Bell, “Not Like You” will be her biggest project yet.
She hopes her music will push people to open up more about their personal struggles, whether with mental health or love, and also encourage more women to create music.
“Men have always had power. It’s time to take it back,” she said. “If you have a voice and talent, why not use it for good?”
You can hear Bell live on July 7 at the “Baddies Blossom” show at La Cultura on 214 Verbeke St., Harrisburg. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. To listen to her music now, visit https://soundcloud.com/ayana-aura.
This story is one in a series of local musician profiles in celebration of African American Music Appreciation Month.