The Beautiful, Bold, and Brilliant Nigerian singer/songwriter Aşa, born Bukola Elemide, is one of my favourite artists in the world. You all know by now that when I’m into an artist, I’m not just about the craft they excel in; I’m about their vibe as a whole, as well as the exceptional brilliance of their talent. Aşa encompasses that for me and so much more.
I always tell myself that if God were to bless me with the music gene, I will be making the kind of music Aşa makes. Her music speaks to me in a very personal way. I feel like she is a personal friend of mine who knows the ins and outs of my life and uses beautiful lyrics and enchanting melodies to describe them. Aşa croons with conviction and calmness over steady guitar chords, and the soft melancholy of her music gets me every time.
I got introduced to Aşa in 2007 after the release of her eponymous album Asa (pronounced Asha), and haven’t stopped being a fan of her ever since. My mama was actually the one who put me on to her music. She wouldn’t stop singing, “There is fire on the mountain…”. She didn’t even know all the lyrics to the song, but she wouldn’t quit humming and singing that one line until it finally stuck in my head. I then did a quick search and fell upon this nerdy looking black goddess. A quick listen to some of her other songs and I was immediately hooked.
Aşa may not possess the conventional vibrato of most female artists, but I find her voice perfectly suited for the kind of music she makes — so soulful and emotionally poignant. She sings about her life. But not only that; about ours as well. The vast topics of love and loss, spiritual impetus, the need to party or share a glass of wine with friends… Aşa makes us feel all of that and so much more. Aşa’s music espouses our melancholies, our dreams, our meditations, our reflections. Sentimental moments turn into timeless tunes, and Aşa’s vision and voice remain ever so clear.
Aşa sings in English and her native Yoruba, and her music is highly influenced by the greats like Fela, Bob Marley and Nina Simone. Aşa’s music envelopes you with intense vocals and a surge of instrumentals, and transports you into a world of jazz, neo-soul and afro fusion with songs expanding into bigger and brighter compositions with a distinct precision. One thing about Aşa, is that she would never leave you indifferent; she is characterised by exquisite musicianship and I am in complete awe of her authenticity and artistry.
It’s very difficult for me to pick my favourite Aşa song; but I hold her entire first album Asa [Asha] very near and dear to my heart. I absolutely love EVERY SINGLE TRACK on that album. It’s on that album that I discovered who Aşa was and immediately fell in love with everything about her. I still have it on heavy rotation on every playlist of mine… in fact the Asa album is simply a MASTERPIECE! As of now Asa has had 5 studio albums, but the Asa album remains my favourite. Her second album Beautiful Imperfection reassured me that the success of the Asa album wasn’t just a fluke; but it’s Aşa’s third album Bed Of Stone that really cemented my love for her.
Aşa’s albums are a continuation of music marked by maturation, unbound by age or time. She recently released her fifth album V, and though I am still in exploration mode, I am already feeling myself liking the album very very much. I’ve had her songs “Ocean” and “Mayana” on constant replay… just can’t get enough.
In a world of highly microwaveable music, Aşa is present and persistent in her purpose; a singular, distinct voice that cuts through the noise. She and her artistry are just “So Beautiful” in inexhaustible ways.