#WCW: Asa

Named Bukola Elemide, Aṣa was born in Paris, France to Nigerian parents. Her family returned to live in Nigeria when she was two. Aṣa grew up in Alagbole, a border town in Ogun state near Lagos, in the south-western part of Nigeria. Twenty years later, Aṣa returned to Paris where her life as an artist took off.

Aṣa was the only female child in the family and had three brothers. At a tender age she began to look after the house during her parents’ frequent absences. This is when Aṣa started to sing. Over the years her father had built up a fine collection of records featuring soul classics and Nigerian music, including Marvin Gaye, Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, Aretha Franklin, King Sunny Adé, Ebenezer Obey and Lagbaja and Asa went on to draw inspiration from them.

Asa grew up in Lagos, a city teeming with people and buzzing with energy but also home to a deep-rooted spirituality. Islam thrives shoulder to shoulder with Christianity in an atmosphere of tolerance, the young imitate America, and the turbulent city moves endlessly in an infernal and yet harmonious ballet of love and hate, laughter and violence, poverty and wealth.

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“Lagos is the New York of Nigeria. If you want to get anywhere in music, that’s where you’ll find the best opportunities, as well as the worst pitfalls.”

Whenever Asa came home from school in Nigeria, she discovered musical acts like Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Raphael Saadiq, Lauryn Hill, Femi Kuti and Angélique Kidjo. She dreamed of following their footprints even while she was in pursuit of educational excellence.

Asa was a lonely child. The family, her brothers, Africa….and yet: she didn’t fit into the usual clichés and was often sad, feeling out of place in childhood, even more so in the world of adolescence. She was different, and music became an escape route as well as a
daydream. Asa would sometimes go to the park with her brothers to sing and dance, but more often took refuge in an imaginary universe that was hers alone. Decked out in a wig borrowed from the maternal treasure chest, a tube of cream serving as her mike, reveling in the freedom of no one watching her, she sang Michael Jackson and Bob Marley hits and greeted an imaginary crowd…

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As she said in an interview;

“I was a tomboy and when I was a teenager I became very shy because people made fun of me…in my own way, I was already attracting attention! I got in the habit of never doing anything like everyone else. People didn’t understand my low-pitched deep voice, the choirs didn’t want anything to do with me. I had to get to church first if I was to have any chance of getting near the mic!”

Asa fought back. Against rejection, against the ups and downs of a life where, to achieve what people call happiness, she had to sacrifice everything. She was twelve when her mother sent her to one of the best schools in the country. But educational excellence had a bitter taste: five years of studies and hardship. 

At 18, Asa was very familiar with frustration. The university was on strike, the choirs were snubbing her. Nevertheless, she managed to get her voice heard on a few radio talent shows and her first applause brought her boundless pleasure. She then signed up, in secret, for the Peter King’s School of Music and learnt how to play the guitar in 6 months.

In 2004 Aṣa met her manager and friend, Janet, who introduced her to Cobhams Emmanuel Asuquo. The musical genius who became her musical partner and producer.

Returning to Paris, Asa discovered that this was her chance to test out her talent on the French musical scene, playing with artists such as the Nubians, Manu Dibango, Doctor L and Tony Allen. In the meantime, back in Nigeria, her first single, Eyé Adaba, then Jailer, were beginning to get airtime. MTV chose her as the ambassador for South Africa, her popularity was growing and, when she went back, she opened for Akon, John Legend, Beyoncé, Snoop Dogg and many others.

Asa soon signed to the Naïve label. Partnered by Cobhams, and with the new involvement of Christophe Dupouy, she produced a magnificent eponymous album: the music’s grace reflects its tempo, humour is never far from emotion, the melodies are unstoppable, the young singer’s voice and energy testify to her enormous talent. The flutist Magic Malik is also featured, shedding his light on the eleven tracks, where the almost magical simplicity of the way the melodies get under your skin should not hide the richness of the arrangements: elegant strings, perfectly placed drums and percussion, guitar — her favourite instrument — along with the Hammond organ playing the field between funk and soul.

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RnB rubs up against pop, with reggae also making an appearance on Fire On The Mountain, the first track released from the album, an impertinent and barely-disguised metaphor for an ignorant and indifferent world. Anyone who refuses to pay attention to the sparks will have no choice but to run when the fire breaks out. The fire, it’s the conflicts we neglect because there is no oil at stake, but it’s also the pedophiles, domestic violence and poverty on your doorstep, and so on. Asa expresses her bittersweet point of view on the realities that move her in different forms, from daydream to nose-thumbing to SOS. Her aim is, of course, to transmit positive values, but also to put words to the things that hurt: Jailer, another highlight of the album, reinterprets the old adage “you reap what you sow”.

This emblematic song with its irresistible refrain opens the album by denouncing modern slavery in all its forms. Asa combines these committed pieces with messages of hope: Eye Adaba (dove in Yoruba) where her voice takes on a fragile air to echo the acoustic guitar, 360, Peace, No One Knows… So Beautiful, a vibrant homage to her mother, Subway and Bi’Banke which take an original and insightful approach to love, full of strength and sensitivity. Sensuality intertwines with spirituality, rebellion with wisdom, on an inspired and optimistic first album. Highly personal and totally universal, Asa’s music will undoubtedly cross all frontiers, not just geographical, but also those of the heart and soul.

Back in Nigeria, her first single, “Eyé Adaba,” then “Jailer,” were beginning to get airtime. Aṣa soon signed to Naïve Records. Partnered with Cobhams, and with the new involvement of Christophe Dupouy, she produced her first album, Aṣa. The release of the album saw Aṣa win the prestigious French Constantin Award in 2008, where she was voted best fresh talent of 10 singers or groups by a jury of 19 music-industry specialists in Paris.

Her second album, Beautiful Imperfection, was released on 25th, October 2010. The lead single from Beautiful Imperfection is titled “Be My Man” and was released in late September. A video for the song was released in mid-October.

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Asa is an artist who is based in Paris more than in Nigeria. In 2012, she was accused of being gay and was charged with lesbianism in court even though she denied being gay. The controversies arose when she said she has nothing against lesbianism. Not been seen publicly with a boyfriend or a male lover of any sort created the assumption that she was gay. 

In 2014 Asa released a new album “Bed Of Stone” which didn’t do as well as the previous albums. She also mentioned she had found the love of her life but did not reveal the gender.

We congratulate Asa for speaking out against all forms of injustice against the human race in her music. She is indeed our woman crush this Wednesday.

SOURCES:

Wikipedia.org

mypenmypaper.wordpress.com

Takemetonaija.com 

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Pingback: #MCM: Banky W

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