Music Seen! Asa - Asa

I don’t know what’s happened in the past few years in the Nigerian music scene, or what has sparked this sudden wave of great music & artists, but one thing is sure, I am enjoying it! I already introduced many of you to a brilliant artist called Nneka (the who recently moved back to Nigeria from Germany) on this blog, and now I want to talk about another equally great singer. Many of you may have already heard of this Paris-born Nigerian artist called Asa(pronounced Asha), and if you’ve followed this blog I’ve previously posted some of her videos. (see here and here). Well, now I am here to review her eponymous debut album which was released in 2007. I really need to get better at doing reviews because I take too much time to do them, and considering I’ve had this album since mid 2008 it’s been a long time coming for this review. Coincidentally Asa (like Nneka) was another artist I discovered on a blog which just goes to show you how ubiquitous the internet is these days. Seriously, the internet is IT for new and cool stuff these days.

Asa’s debut album starts of on a very good note with the song “Jailer” which it turns out was one of my favourite songs of 2008, I had this song on repeat for months! It is just such a well done song both lyrically and melodically, and with its political message speaking against oppression there’s really not much that could go wrong with this song. It chorus is just great, simple and yet powerful,”I’m talking to you jailer/stop calling me a prisoner/let he who is without sin be the first to cast a stone, Mr.Jailer.” When listening to this song early last year it brought to me mental images of Iraq, Bush, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. It is such a good opening song it would fell almost criminal not to sit back and listen to the rest of the album!

Though “Jailer” is my first choice for favourite cut on the album, if you think the rest of the album is weak you are mistaken. “Bibanke” is another mellow yet very beautiful song which is another personal favourite. On this song that talks about a love that has left, Asa beautifully exhibits her singing range and vocal control. Asa’s low toned voice kind of reminds me of Macy Gray though it's not as raspy. “Subway” is another lovely song where Asa talks about love and the lessons that were imparted on here by her mama. It features some great violins and background harmonizing which adds to the emotion of the song. I’m sure many women (men too) can relate to this song as we’ve all had that person (people) giving us advice on matters of the heart, even though we often times choose to discover its pain and joys on our own.

I had difficulty choosing between “Jailer” or “Fire on The Mountain” as to which was my favorite song on the album. “Fire” which introduced me to this artist is just an excellent song, definitely another of the better ones of 08. And the video for it is just very creative and well done too. It’s just one of those songs that are so good, you end up picking all the lyrics to (which I have). I like the fact that she wrote a song on war and violence in such a unique and non-preachy way. This is the way it should be done! There is nothing wrong musicians singing about the world’s ills, but how about doing it in a way that pulls the listener and they can also dance to. Now an artist knows their job is done when you can learn from a song and dance to it at the same time, this is Asa showing you what she’s capable of. On “Eye Adaba” we then go back to a soothing melody, great vocals, a freshly plucked guitar followed by a dash of flute.

Things get funky on the next cut “No One Knows” with the funk provided by the bass guitar and Asa’s fun sounding upbeat vocals. But even with all the funkiness, the song gives us a time to reflect on the importance of living your life to the fullest right now, as no one knows what tomorrow will bring. The album slows its pace for the next two songs “Awe” and “Peace.” On the last song “So Beautiful” Asa sings with sincerity about her love for her mama with the song with the song alternating between slow acoustic and an upbeat tune.

Overall, this is an excellent debut album which puts Asa on the map in African music (from the diaspora if you want to get technical). With some very strong songs in it, this is one of the best albums of 2008.

KC Blog rating: 4.5/5

“A top 10 album of 2008, and one that should be in your collection.”


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