Bukola Elemide (a.k.a. Asa), the multi-talented artiste and culture ambassador, takes the Nigerian music scene by storm, rekindling hope for a better tomorrow.
By Sylvester Asoya
Unlike her peers, Asa’s emergence as a serious artiste is deeply embedded in mystery. And her name, which means hawk in Yoruba, is no less enthralling. She has managed, in a very short time, to capture the attention of music lovers, especially the upper class, with her sonorous voice, laced with solemn instrumentation and good stage presence.
But she feels that her music is still evolving, just like her character and passion. “My music is a journey, but for now, it will be safe to call it Soul. Asa, as a whole, is unfolding. I am a brand that is still developing and it will be unwise to permanently give myself a name because I am still searching. I am young and still growing and as time goes on, I will add other things to everything that I already know and have,” she said.
However, she acknowledges that her music is a fusion of hip-hop, folk, jazz and many other influences. In a way, understanding Asa requires a glimpse into her childhood. As a child, Asa was restless and swift like the hawk. One day, she strayed away from home, causing emotional trauma to her parents. After many hours of fruitless search in the neighbourhood, her parents and the search party gave up, thinking she may never be seen again. Then suddenly, to the relief of everybody, the young girl appeared in the company of a woman who had found her loitering at a street corner many kilometres away from home. She was re-christened ‘Asa’ in the confusion and excitement that followed her re-appearance in the company of an old woman.
Since then, Asa has lived her new name, doing extraordinary things like the hawk. But the journey to self-realisation was strewn with challenges. First, she remembers the tortuous experience of travelling from Lagos to Jos, Plateau State, a 14-hour journey by road, just to attend secondary school. But that also gave her an early lesson in perseverance. “That was when I saw life from a different perspective because I had to stay with different people and learn about their characteristics and behaviours,” she recalls.
Although Asa had exhibited tendencies towards music earlier in life, it was still a little difficult gaining the confidence of her skeptical parents who thought differently about her line of career. “Like most parents in Nigeria, they hoped and anxiously waited for me to go straight into what they wanted me to do, probably law or medicine. But I refused. So, I will advise every parent, if you find a talent in your child, please help the child develop it. I am a master in what I do. I will be a flop if I go into Law because that is not what I want to do.”
Today, the Abeokuta, Ogun State-born artiste is happy that she followed her mind. Though she refuses to disclose her age, claiming “she is too young to die, and too old to cry,” she is definitely on the path to self-actualisation. Asa has done quite well with her solo performances at different events. She has also collaborated with fellow musicians like Lagbaja and many others.
A few years ago, she undertook a major tour of French cities, following an invitation from the French government. The artiste who recently returned from a musical tour of the United Kingdom has also taken her music to Lisbon, Portugal and other parts of Europe. And for her, no height is unattainable. “I want to see my music making some sense, people appreciating it, and myself being on the biggest stages and performing with great musicians. I have dreams.” Though she sees herself as a young artiste who still has a long way to go, she, nevertheless, confesses that she is overwhelmed at the way people are touched by her music. “My music makes people to sit down and think; it makes people appreciate God the more, and it makes them appreciate music too. That is one thing that makes me glad because it is positive,” she noted. Outside music, Asa is eager to be a veritable role model to young people. In fact, she told TheNEWS that her focus is to inspire young children and, to live what she preaches.
She is, however, worried by new generation of children who are all products of television and radio. She agrees that everybody has been seriously affected by Western influences, yet she believes that we can rescue the next generation by infusing into their lives, African culture, language and ways of life. But she also thinks that parents share in much of the blame, especially the elite, who encourage the exclusive use of English language at the expense of traditional languages. This, according to her, has resulted in not just outright alienation, but also exclusion from African ways of life.
On stage, Asa could easily be mistaken for Tracy Chapman, the Jamaican soul diva, because of her vintage guitar, dreadlocks, stage mannerisms, austere costume and even the genre of music. But she dismisses any influence from Chapman, though she agrees having been influenced by such music greats as Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Lagbaja, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye and Eryka Badu. And for those who continually link her with Chapman, Asa has a response: “I have not really listened to her, but just because I use the guitar and I have dreadlocks, people keep saying that I remind them of Tracy Chapman. Or probably the content of my music. I do a lot of conscious music, and she does that too.”
Those who thought lightly of her at the beginning of her career, mainly due to her very quiet disposition, are beginning to have a re-think. Though she is conspicuously missing on the pages of Nigerian newspapers and magazines, Asa is “slowly but surely,” according to her, headed for the top.
But she has a lot to contend with as she consolidates on this upward movement. And she is widely believed to be working hard to maintain a high standard in an industry that is fraught with inconsistencies. Nonetheless, she hopes to draw from her professional experience which began from her days at the Department of Theatre Arts and Music, Lagos State University. Asa also came under the influence of Peter King, a jazzist whose College of Music in Badagry, Lagos, provided lessons for her on the guitar and theory of music. She was also at a school of jazz in France where she honed her skills in voice training and stage techniques. Her journey may have only just begun, but Asa is definitely a good sign of the things to come in the Nigeria music industry.
1st video extract from her latest album!
www.asamusic.net : more vidéos !