Full Name: Bukola Elemide
Stage Name: Asa
Date of Birth: 17 September 1982.
Genres: Pop, Jazz, Indie pop.
Instruments: Vocals Guitar trumpet.
Labels: Naive BMG .
Occupation: Singer-songwriter, producer.
Born Bukola Elemide, A?a was born in Paris, France to her Nigerian parents. Her family returned to live in Nigeria when she was two. A?a grew up in Alagbole, a border town in Ogun state near Lagos, in the south-western part of Nigeria. Twenty years later, A?a returned to Paris where her life as an artist took off.
A?a was the only female child in the family and had three brothers. At a tender age she began to look after the house during her parents’ frequent absences. This is when A?a started to sing.
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, King Sunny Ad�, Ebenezer Obey and Lagbaja and Asa went on to draw inspiration from them.
Asa grew up in Lagos, a city teeming with people and buzzing with energy but also home to a deep-rooted spirituality. Islam thrives shoulder to shoulder with Christianity in an atmosphere of tolerance, the young imitate America, and the turbulent city moves endlessly in an infernal and yet harmonious ballet of love and hate, laughter and violence, poverty and wealth.
“Lagos is the New York of Nigeria. If you want to get anywhere in music, that’s where you’ll find the best opportunities, as well as the worst pitfalls.”
Whenever Asa came home from school in Nigeria, she discovered musical acts like Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Raphael Saadiq, Lauryn Hill, Femi Kuti and Ang�lique Kidjo. This was while she was in pursuit of educational excellence, and these musical acts are whose footprints she dreamed of following.
Asa was a lonely child. The family, her brothers, Africa….and yet: she didn’t fit into the usual clich�s and was often sad, feeling out of place in childhood, even more so in the world of adolescence. She was different, and music became an escape route as well as a daydream.
Asa would sometimes go to the park with her bothers to sing and dance, but more often took refuge in an imaginary universe that was her’s alone. Decked out in a wig borrowed from the maternal treasure chest, a tube of cream serving as her mike, revelling in the freedom of no one watching her, she sang Michael Jackson and Bob Marley hits and greeted an imaginary crowd…
IN HER WORDS SHE MENTIONED A FEW IN HER INTERVIEW:
“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 mic!”
Asa fought back. Against rejection, against the ups and downs of a life where, to achieve what people call happiness, she had to sacrifice everything. She was twelve when her mother sent her to one of the best schools in the country. But educational excellence had a bitter taste: five years of studies and hardship. When she came home, she discovered Erika Badu, D’Angelo, Rafa�l Saadiq, Lauryn Hill, Femi Kuti and Ang�lique 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. 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.
CAREER AND LIFE
In 2004 A?a met her manager and friend, Janet, who introduced her to Cobhams Emmanuel Asuquo, who in turn became her musical partner and producer.
Asa 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, Ey� Adaba, then Jailer, were beginning to get airtime.
MTV chose her as the ambassador for South Africa, her popularity was growing and, when she went back, she opened for Akon, John Legend, Beyonc� and Snoop Dogg amongst others.
Asa soon signed to the Na�ve label. Partnered by Cobhams, and with the new involvement of Christophe Dupouy, she produced a magnificent eponymous album: the music’s grace reflects its tempo, humour is never far from emotion, the melodies are unstoppable, the young singer’s voice and energy testify to her enormous talent.
The flautist Magic Malik is also featured, shedding his light on the eleven tracks, where the almost magical simplicity of the way the melodies get under your skin should not hide the richness of the arrangements: elegant strings, perfectly placed drums and percussion, guitar — her favourite instrument — along with the Hammond organ playing the field between funk and soul.
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. Anyone who refuses to pay attention to the sparks will have no choice but to run when the fire breaks out. The fire, it’s the conflicts we neglect because there is no oil at stake, but it’s also the paedophiles, domestic violence and poverty on your doorstep, and so on. Asa expresses her bittersweet point of view on the realities that move her in different forms, from daydream to nose-thumbing to SOS. Her aim is, of course, to transmit positive values, but also to put words to the things that hurt: 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. Asa combines these committed pieces with messages of hope: Eye Adaba (dove in Yoruba) where her voice takes on a fragile air to echo the acoustic guitar, 360, Peace, No One Knows… So Beautiful, a vibrant homage to her mother, Subway and Bi’Banke which take an original and insightful approach to love, full of strength and sensitivity.
Sensuality intertwines with spirituality, rebellion with wisdom, on an inspired and optimistic first album. Highly personal and totally universal, Asa’s music will undoubtedly cross all frontiers, not just geographical, but also those of the heart and soul.
Back in Nigeria, her first single, “Ey� Adaba,” then “Jailer,” were beginning to get airtime. A?a soon signed to Na�ve Records. Partnered with Cobhams, and with the new involvement of Christophe Dupouy, she produced her first album, A?a. The release of the album saw A?a win the prestigious French Constantin Award in 2008, where she was voted best fresh talent of 10 singers or groups by a jury of 19 music-industry specialists in Paris.
Her second album, Beautiful Imperfection, was released on 25 October 2010. The lead single from Beautiful Imperfection is titled “Be My Man” and was released in late September. A video for the song was released in mid-October. She also performed with F�f� at the Sydney Festival in 2011.
Asa is an artist who is much more based in Paris than her country Nigeria, she was accused of being gay in 2012 as she was even charged with Lesbianism in the court even though she denied not being gay. The controversies arose when she said she has nothing against Lesbianism in which she haven’t been seen with a boyfriend or a male lover of any sort which made people jumped into that conclusion.
In 2014 Asa released a new album “BED OF STONE” which didn’t do well like others have done. She also mentioned she finally found the love of her life and she also didn’t reveal if it is a male or female.
AWARDS AND ENDORSEMENTS
2008: Prix Constantin
2011: French Music Awards Victoires de la Musique nomination for ‘Female Artist of the Year
Recording of the year- Bibanke by Asa Headies 2008
Headies Awards Album of the year – Asa 2008
Won Headies Next Rated Award- Asa 2006
Asa was said to have signed a multimillion naira endorsement deal with GTBank after