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Asa’s Music Is Poetry

There are people who cannot cope without listening to music all the time. An attempt to turn off the music they’re enjoying might earn you the position of number one arch-enemy at that moment. I must confess that I partially fall into that category and I’ve made no efforts to change. Of course, why should I change? Fortunately or unfortunately, I have not spared a minute to ponder if my actions are normal or not. But come to think of it, what is life without music? For me, it is better imagined than experienced.

All through this week, I’ve been playing Asa’s very first album titled Asa. Honestly, there are musicians with a difference. This has nothing to do with the genre or style, instead it has everything to do with what the musician’s music is all about, what the musician does with his/her music. Personally, I’m interested in the functionality of music which lies in its ability to communicate and affect the lives of the listeners. Hence, it becomes an avenue for giving people something worthwhile to think about, thereby effecting positive changes in individuals and the society at large.

The Paris-born Nigerian-French singer, Asa has become a household name in Nigeria and beyond. In 2004, she met one of Nigeria’s ace music producers, Cobhams Asuquo, who she worked with and subsequently had her first album released in 2007. In 2008, Asa won the French Constantin Awards and her music took her to limelight. I could recall the very first day I heard her first single ‘Eye Adaba’, then ‘Jailer’. Something struck me, an observation that she’s not only passionate about her music, but pays attention to her lyrics. I would later realize that she is also a song writer who pens her lyrics and sets them to music. When a musician sits down to write songs, there’s always a difference. Oftentimes, we hear of artistes who enter the studio to do a freestyle recording. They spend quality time to ensure that their beats are danceable but end up singing claptrap.

One might question, who cares?

The truth is, some people actually care. Music is beyond beats alone. If the music is purely instrumental, it is very understandable. But when it’s vocal, the artiste must at least try and make some sense. Here, Asa says:

“I like writing about my texts on the bus, or the molue, as we call it. 49 seats, 99 passengers standing up, as Fela described it. Everyone’s squashed up together and mini-dramas break out all the time. And, at the end of the day, we still manage to laugh, that’s where our strength lies.”

Asa 05Following the above statement, it’s not difficult to decipher that Asa is a poet. Hence, it is not surprising that the lyrics of her music are very deep and philosophical. In her assertion, there’s already a deep sense of imagery which it exudes. Asa has millions of fans who listen to her music for reasons personal to them. Personally, I enjoy her songs because her lyrics are poetry. Inasmuch as the relationship poetry shares with music lies mostly in rhythm, meter and form, it requires a highly talented musician and poet to fuse both; that is, setting poems to music perfectly. For this course, Asa’s preferred genres which are soul, jazz and indie pop gives her the most suitable platform to express her art. For an artiste like her, sometimes it could be difficult to single out one of her songs that you consider your favorite. For me, I’ve caught myself several times listening to ‘Fire on the mountain’ and ‘Jailer’. I won’t presume that it’s because of the depth and connotations of her lyrics, other songs of hers share same trait. Those two songs of hers particularly speak to me about the current state of Nigeria where we live with multiple anomalies and we seem to be comfortable. A palpable instance is the terrorist insurgence in the Northern part of the country which has threatened the security of Nigeria and her citizens. Next is the unemployment rate which has frustrated so many Nigerian youths and ignited several negative behaviors and activities. For a country which is rated the 12th largest oil producing nation and the 8th largest exporter in the world, there is no excuse whatsoever for such an ugly development. Amidst unemployment and several other troubles, some elected officers and public servants steal billions of naira and still go unpunished even when there are agencies that reserve the sole responsibility of handling corruption cases. In the song ‘Fire on the mountain’, Asa paints an imagery which depicts the current Nigerian experience. Here’s an excerpt:

There is fire on the mountain/ and nobody seems to be on the run/

Oh there is fire on the mountain top/ and no one is running. /

I wake up in the morning/ tell you what I see on my TV screen/

I see the blood of an innocent child/ and everybody’s watching.

Asa’s influences include Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, Raphael Saadiq, Lauryn Hill, Angelique Kidjo, Marvin Gaye, Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, Aretta Franklin et al.

 Written by Echezonachukwu Nduka @nduka_echenduka

Echezonachukwu Nduka is a Nigerian musicologist, freelance journalist and literary enthusiast.

Leave a comment


  1. Asa music is just deep. So I see someone we share thesame sentiment about Asa’s music and its message.

  2. Evan

     /  November 27, 2013

    Me too:)! Jailer is my favourite.

  3. Yemie

     /  November 27, 2013

    Asa’s legendary. Her songs and lyrics make sense die, just as the writer’s clearly stated. I’d also like to believe that Bez has the same kinda flavour, void of all these ‘new age’ musics that rent our airwaves. Great write-up, kudos.

  4. deolu

     /  November 27, 2013

    Asa has got to be the best thing that happened to the Nigerian music industry since Fela. I call her the “shiznit”….

  5. Cylina'Dor

     /  November 27, 2013

    My friends thinks I am old school and always come wit their own CD’s when riding in my car. I have all of ASA’s CD I am still yet to place which is my favvy of em all but I seem to pay ILU and IYA and then I love EYE ADABA esp d english version I also have a tin4ha AWE and 360• And my love for BINBAKE is immense I tink I love all of her songs equally plus she is my favvy nigeria artist and I also love nneka.


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