She’s missing-in-action at home. But the beloved musician is working her way to relevant circles in Europe; and eyeing a US penetration.
And in this Factory 78 interview, she opens up more, on where she’s coming from, and where she’s headed. Oh, she answers some trivia too!
Asa, how are you?
I know you just performed here in the UK, how was it?
It was good. The people were really nice and I think they enjoyed the show, I did as well.
During your performance, Twitter went crazy; I heard you did some ‘bata’ dance as well, did you?
Now this is like a promotional tour for you. Your second album’Beautiful Imperfection’ is out now. Let’s talk about a little bit of your history in the music industry; this is your second album and to get such reception by the fans internationally as well as in Africa, It must feel like an accomplishment at this stage, doesn’t it?
It feels good when people react, especially positively to the work. It shows that the months of writing and going through production, composition and all of that is paying off. It also feels good when the album can reach many people and cut across.
You were born in France and you grew up in Nigeria, a mixture of cultures, how did that inspire your brand of music?
I was raised in Lagos and what I know in music today is from the church, the street, the music I heard from the street, the music from my father’s record. Coming out to France after a very long time, seeing other cultures and the people bringing things from their country and sharing especially music. I enjoyed the freedom so much in France. With that and what I learnt in Lagos, I was able to carve a niche, an identity for myself. It helped me with my compositions and performances. It’s been great.
Talking about your history in music, a little birdie told me that you were such a musical person, you used to sing back your answers to your mum when she asked you questions. Now tell me how it was growing up as a musical person and the kind of reaction you got from family members and friends in Nigeria at a time when education was number one priority. What did it feel like?
When I sang people liked it, they thought it was a good hobby; it wasn’t easy for me because people didn’t quite understand the tone of my voice and also the range because I was always singing low but that was my voice. Back then, if you had a high voice, you could sing like a bird, you could sing like Celine Dion and that’s great. So I had to fight with that, I had to fight with people thinking I wasn’t a good singer and took me off the choir in school and church. But now I think my family thinks differently; they are proud, I also see other people’s parents encourage their children to go into music and also do what they want to do. So, also on the long run it has paid off.
How will you brand the type of music you make?
It’s hard because I am a product of many people. From Marvin Gaye to Fela Kuti to Bob Marley to Aretha Franklyn to Miriam Makeba, Angelina Kidjo, I’m a mix of them. I take one or two things from them to make Asa. So it’s really hard, I like to give you… (laughs). I do folk music with a fusion of reggae, hip-hop, a bit of soul, of jazz, all these musical stars I learnt growing up.
The name of your second and current album is Beautiful imperfection, why did you choose that title?
Beautiful Imperfection is my life, it’s me looking inwards and saying ‘I’m beautiful but imperfect’. I like to do music, that’s beautiful, you might like it or not. It’s like life; it’s beautiful sometimes and atimes you might see it as bitter. People have different experiences, so beautiful imperfection is what I am and accepting that it’s a journey and I’m human.
Now let’s talk about the song ‘Be my Man’; where did the inspiration for that song come from?
Well, it came from hanging out with my girlfriends. We were all chatting and talking about boys (laughs). We were talking about what we would like to do, what kind of families we would like to have, what kind of men we would like to have. So the song ‘Be my man’ is a playful conversation, inspired by these conversations I’ve had in the past. It’s me expressing what I would like my man to be, what I would want us to do – have fun, do all the cheesy things and live life without being scared and shy.
Now, in very little time, the French community has embraced you, your music and culture. Were you surprised at how quick it took to sway your people in that way?
I was surprised, well but God has a way of directing you. So I never thought I would go and sing in France, I thought I was going to be a tourist, go visit my birthplace and enjoy Paris. My Grand dad would say ‘See Paris and die’ (laughs). I guess he meant that because he was in love, if you are in love, you go to Paris. So the reaction of the people has been really amazing. I enjoy that fact that there’s France which forms part of my story and then there’s Nigeria. I have these two worlds and the reactions have been really great and very encouraging as well. What else can I ask for? I’m full of appreciation.
Your relationship with Cobhams Asuquo has been well documented over the last couple of years. You guys have worked together basically since you started your first album. How did that relationship come about and what is the state of that relationship now?
Well, with Cobhams, I met him about eight years ago and we’ve been really good friends. We are still good friends, he worked on the second album as well but on a few songs this time around because I wanted to branch out, I’m searching; looking at other things and I’m hearing the sounds. So, it’s still good with Cobhams, we remain friends, we are still working together and it’s great. You know, Cobhams is amazing.
What role do you think artistes should play in the community when it comes to issues that are affecting the people?
Just like a politician or preacher, we all have roles to play because people look up to us, people want to learn, want direction, need direction. And if you are a singer or an actor or a dancer you have the responsibility because you are always in contact with people, you are a public figure and just like the ministry you have to lead people towards the right place. So it is important to use this opportunity we have, the opportunity of the microphone, the loudspeaker, the travelling and meeting with great people to help, to send messages, to inspire the youth, to put them on the right path
How would you advice young female artistes especially in Nigeria now trying to come out and take a hold of their business? Just to be aware of things around them.
Well, it’s hard for females but you have to believe in yourself, you have to know yourself. If you don’t know yourself, you might fall into the hands of the wrong people. I did know myself, I’ve always known myself but you know, we are humans and you cannot ‘not’ make mistakes. Sometime mistakes are good, it helps make you stronger and make some decisions in life. I feel also, patience is very important. Now it might seem nothing is going to happen, everybody is making all the money, making all the noise but patience is good. It’s also good to experience, I can’t tell you not to go out and experience but it’s also very important to know yourself; know when to stay calm, watch, learn and make the right move.
I got 2 more questions for you with a yes or no answer to let people know more about Asa and I’ll put you on the spot; One – Paris or Lagos
Short, cut and sexy or tall, dark and handsome?
Excuse me (laughs)…of course tall.