People around me have supported me in a way that I don’t struggle to balance things, they just fall in place.
“Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand.” – Stevie Wonder
Music is an integral part of the Nigerian culture and there is a sense of identity and belonging when we are enthralled by a sound that speaks to our soul. In the field of soul music, Asa needs no introduction as the globally acclaimed singer and songwriter and has gone on four world tours and performed at 900 concerts with all credit to her sound. Listening to Asa is an experience, right from the introduction of her first singles, Jailer, Eyé Adaba and Fire on the Mountain to her songs from her last album. Asa has the special “something” that makes it easy to make an anthem out of her songs and with every release, Asa has taken us on a lyrical journey, which we can understand, relate, feel and envelope ourselves in.
The award winning artist has gone on to release four albums – Asa, Live in Paris, Beautiful Imperfection, Bed of Stone – and has revealed that she is currently recording another album. Amplifying the musical experience for the first time in a very long time on the 1st of May, 2016 Asa thrilled the Lagos crowd to her headline concert Asa Live in Lagos Concert and is set to make Lagos stand still again on the 29th of April at the Asa Live In Lagos Encore concert with her band, 30 Orchestra and full technical team, which in her own words are, “Set to give a world performance.”
One often wonders what goes on behind the curtains of our beloved artists, and it is safe to say that what goes on behind that curtain of Asa is continuous melody that reveals new meaning every time. She has evolved in her sound and has put herself in a role model position for musicians with like minds to express themselves and find their voices.
Asa is music…
Every artist has a creative process and for Asa, her process is holistic as she talks about what inspires her creative process to be everything and anything “from travelling to new places and discovering new sounds to listening to any artist.” Just like the old Chinese Chan (Zen) saying that implores you to “Empty your cup”, she says she is very open. She goes on further to explain a wide range of things that influence her, “I can’t say it’s just one thing that influences my music. It could be one thing for one album or another thing. It could be in disguise going to Lagos island, it could be on a road trip from Paris to Lyon, it could be in a little village in Cully Switzerland, or in big cities like Paris, Los Angeles or Berlin, conversations with friends, family, I’m a collector of information.”
It is clearly evident that music is a major part of Asa. On the question on how she balances other obligations with music, she says, “I have no other obligation but to do music. I’m an artiste, I write music, record music, go on tours. I don’t have any other job that I do but music. I have business interest but my core is music. It’s what I really do.” To balance her life, music and people around her, she explains further, “And everything thing else, people around me have supported me in a way that I don’t struggle to balance things, they just fall in place. The people I surround myself with are very important.” Shedding more light as her work as an artist she expresses that her core values lie in her ability to staying true to herself and allowing for creative freedom. To explain this further she says, “I try to enjoy myself with what I do and I don’t take my audience for granted.”
It is quite unimaginable to think of a world where one isn’t familiar with the sound of Asa but if there was such a world how would you describe her sound? For Asa, she doesn’t believe in describing her music because it is personal – “Like every human is diverse and experiences it in a different way. You listen, and it talks to you. For example, I perform Bamidele and people from other countries who don’t understand the language are able to connect with the music and interpret it however it comes to them.” This reminds one of the quote by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “Music is the universal language of mankind” and she is very much familiar in the art of conversing in that language.
The art of performing music
In light of the concert held last year, expectations are high on reliving the Asa experience and speaking with her, she has every intention on delivering. It is evident from her music that her attention to detail is intricate and her need to create an experience through music is key. Talking about Asa Live in Lagos Concert she discussed the experience of her first concert in Lagos, the first in Lagos for a very long time. “I’ve been on the move, touring (four world tours, 900 concerts) but I’ve done quite a number of shows in Nigeria. I ended my tour for Bed of Stone here in Lagos last year, I had to bring it home. We were able to bring in the elements that we travel the world with. We didn’t compromise on anything, we wanted people to have a great experience and it was satisfying knowing that they did.” As she expatiates on her last concert, she says, “The idea was to give them what we gave everywhere else, it felt as though I was having conversations with family. They understood the stories I was singing about, what I was talking about and they sang along.”
Moving along to the concert happening this month, and the impact intended, she explains, “For this concert we’re having this year it is a start of a new tour. It’s been ten years since the release of my first album and what better way to start this project than from my country where my story began before taking it to the rest of the world. This is a very important event for me, and for those who have supported and followed my music over the years.”
When speaking on her expectations for Asa Live In Lagos Encore and as well as that of her fans, she says, “I expect to have a good time, we’re going to have a blast like we did last year. I want them to be satisfied. My band, 30 piece orchestra and my full technical team will put up a world class concert.” Undaunted by the process of performing live, when asked on what happens with mistakes during performances she says, “We simply carry on. I work with incredible musicians, and honestly there’s never really mistakes in music, especially when its live and when you’re enjoying yourself on stage.” Pulling together the type of show we envisage is no easy feat and that can be said for any show of that magnitude because there are expectations to outdo the previous year. Speaking on challenges faced while preparing for this concert she asks, “What challenges haven’t I faced in putting anything together?” Describing further she says, “It’s a very expensive show, I could compromise on some things but I can’t and won’t. The most important thing however is my audience, I want them to experience my concert.”
Every performer has a unique routine that puts them in the right frame of mind ahead of their performance and as she speaks on her routine and if she gets nervous before she affirms that she does get nervous and shares her routine which starts off four hours to show time with trumpet warm-up then costume and makeup. After that she stays quiet for 15 minutes, drinks water and heads onstage to perform for two hours straight.
The other side of Asa
As hard as it would be to imagine a world without the voice of Asa, she tells us that she might have been a private investigator or nurse if she wasn’t a musician, reason being, “I like to nurture people and I also like to gather information. When you tell me one thing, I’d like to discover the truth,” she adds, “but I can’t quite imagine not doing music though.” Listing the five things she cannot live without: she mentions a pair of running shoes, which she has and finds therapeutic and helps her listen to her audio books, her glasses, which she needs, book because of her love for reading, a guitar for obvious reasons and last but not the least, a voice recorder and a memo pad (which makes six) to record ideas as well as write them out.
Makeup: Doranne Beauty
Styling & Hair: Bubu Ogisi