What I’m really disappointed about in the recording industry is that many of today’s artists are making too records that lack content or is too producer oriented. It seems that all the records produced now are with artists that are younger and music content seems to be dominated by dance or sex oriented material. Gone are the golden days of the D’Angelo and Lauryn Hill type artists where they were groomed through A & R directors. It was through them that allowed the talent to develop over span of recordings that allowed them to pair with the right writers and producers. Plus, that was the last time the artists really took root of their career and recorded music that was personal and constantly evolving.
Last week at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York City I witnessed the exact opposite of where music has returned to. Where maturity in songwriting and live performance was an intricate part of the intimacy and connection to the fans and artist. This performer has the natural ability to reach out and speak the truth, not out of hate or commercial gain, but out of life and growing up as a human being.
Hailed as one of the most important singer/songwriters of her generation, Asa(pronounced Asha) is a musician that’s the most honest and authentic person on and off the stage. Her latest disc ‘Beautiful Imperfection’ is a tribute and testament that folk, soul, and afro-beat can be a means of music that appeals to music fans all over the world. Often compared to Lauryn Hill and Nina Simone, Asa’s music reflects her views on politics, her sensitivity as both a strong and weak African woman, and the ability to encourage one to love themselves. Over the last four years she’s been able to independently become her own voice to the tune of millions of fan all over the world.
Born in Paris, France, young Bukola Elemide at an early age knew that she was going to become a musician. At the age of two, she and her family moved to Lagos, Nigeria where for 20 years Asa was accustomed to her parent’s native country. Asa means “Hawk” in Yorba.
While growing up in Lagos, she used to listen to her parent’s records that consisted of a mix of African musician ranging from Fela Kuti to Sunny Ade, to the great American soul artists like Donny Hathaway to Aretha Franklin. By the time she was 18, Asa signed herself at the Peter King’s School of Music, a music school where she learned to play the guitar. It was also there where she began developing her vocal style fusing both English and her native Yorba.
At 19 Asa moved to Paris, France where she began her real roots a struggling and up-and-coming artist. One of her best friends introduced her to producer and manager Cobhams Emmauel Asuquo, who later became her musical partner. By this time she sent her demo tape to the Visa program that was run by the AFAA, the cultural division of the French Foreign Ministry. During the beginning of 2007 Asa and Cobhams went into the recording studio for six weeks and recorded her debut self-titled album “Asa.” With jaw-dropping songs like “Jailer,” “360,” and “So Beautiful,” music fans and critics took notice of her politically charged and mature songwriting and performances. When Asa plays the guitar with out a band, you can hear a pin drop! Audiences are glued to her singing as well as messages of hope.
It was around this time Asa and other musicians like 2 Face, 419 Squad, and 9ice were beginning to bring a new and fresh voice that brought a resurrection to the Nigerian music scene.
‘Beautiful Imperfection’ is continuation of Asa’s growth as a vocalist and songwriter. The new disc fuses all of the musical styles at she grew up listening to and enjoying as a kid. Her latest hit “Why Can’t We” is an upbeat soulful/folk oriented groove that takes you back to the soul sounds of the 1960’s. Other songs like “Preacher Man” and “Questions” continue to showcase her ability to raise ones consciousness of the injustices that take in the world.
I first saw Asa three years ago at Summerstage at Central Park when she opened for Les Nubians, another French/African soul group that proceeded her a decade earlier. It was then that I witnessed a musical treasure on the rise. After listening to her debut disc ‘Asha’ I noticed that some of her content was a bit bleak and rather eye-opening compared to her latest ‘Beautiful Imperfection.’ This disc seems to be more upbeat and her outlook on life a bit optimistic. But what I must say is that her live performance has drastically stepped up a notch even with out a live band.This young lady is on her way both musically and as a person.
Asa is currently on tour and promoting her latest disc. For upcoming dates or to order ‘Beautiful Imperfection’ visit her online at asa-official.com.
The Revolution Will Be Televised,
The Pace Report