Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Meet Nigerian singer-songwriter: Bukola Elemide "Aṣa"


Aṣa (pronounced "Asha") (born in 1982) is a Nigerian singer-songwriter and recording artist. Her stage name "Aṣa" means "Hawk" in Yoruba

Early life
Born Bukola Elemide, Aṣa was born in Paris, France to Nigerian parents. She was two years old when her family returned to live in Nigeria. Aṣa grew up in Lagos, in the south-western part of Nigeria. She states that the city is "buzzing with energy but also home to a deep-rooted spirituality. Islam thrives shoulder to shoulder with Christianity in an atmosphere of tolerance, and the turbulent city moves endlessly in an infernal and yet harmonious ballet of love and hate, laughter and violence, poverty and wealth."

However twenty years later Aṣa returned to Paris, which is where her life as an artist took wing. Aṣa was twelve when her mother sent her to one of the best schools in Nigeria. But educational excellence had a bitter taste : five years of studies and hardship. When she came home, she discovered Erykah Badu,D'Angelo, Raphael Saadiq, Lauryn Hill, Femi Kuti and Angelique Kidjo, in whose footprints she dreamt of following.

At 18, Asa was very familiar with frustration. The university was on strike, the choirs were snubbing her. During these frustrating times, Asa used to lock herself in her room and sing; this she said was very comforting. 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 to play the guitar in 6 months

Background
Aṣa was the only girl in the family and had to share her parents with her three brothers. At a tender age she began to look after the house during her father and mother’s frequent absences. That is when Aṣa started to sing. The desire to sing came to her and didn’t go away, carving out a permanent place in her soul. She preferred singing to talking, improvising endlessly until her mother made her stop.

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, Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey and Lagbaja and went on to draw inspiration from them. Aṣa said "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 mike"

In 2004 Aṣa met her manager, Janet, who introduced her to Cobhams Emmanuel Asuquo, who in turn became her musical partner. He enabled Aṣa, the free spirit, to find her bearings : songs in English and Yoruba, music falling somewhere between pop and soul, inspired by her musical heritage — with particular care paid to the melodies — and reflecting the feeling she puts into it. Her texts talk about her country, the things in life, the things in her life, all delivered with feigned naivete and real irony. She states "I like writing or thinking about my texts on the bus, or the molue, as we call it. 49 seats, 99 passengers standing up, as Fela described it. Everyone’s squashed up together and mini-dramas break out all the time. And, at the end of the day, we still manage to laugh, that’s where our strength lies..."

It was at this stage of her life that Aṣa finally returned to Paris. 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, Eye Adaba, then Jailer, were beginning to get airtime. MTV chose her as the ambassador for South Africa. Her popularity became big, that when she came back to Nigeria she opened for Akon, John Legend, Beyonce and Snoop Dogg amongst others.

Aṣa soon signed to the 'Naive label'. Partnered by Cobhams, and with the new involvement of Christophe Dupouy, she produced a magnificent debut album, ASA. R&b 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. "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.Aṣa's song Eye Adaba featured in the 3rd episode of series 3 of the E4's teen tv show, Skins, in which congolese youngster Thomas is forced to return to Congo from Bristol, where he was living in a flat owned by Johnny White, and made new friends in Pandora, Effy and the rest of the cast. The song is used for the scene in which Thomas is told be pack his bags by his mother and he is upset at having to leave.



Track listing
"Jailer"
"360"
"Bibanke"
"Subway"
"Fire on the Mountain"
"Eye Adaba""No One Knows"
"Awe""Peace"
"So Beautiful"
"Iba"