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Nigerian-French Songstress Asa’s Sweet Soul Sounds

Tiffany Lee
The New Now

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Okay, maybe this article's title is a bit to heavy on the alliteration (say it three times fast!), but Asa's smoky voice and velveteen melodies can't help but evoke a gentle joie de vivre--even when she's singing of the trials of love and tribulations in the world. Her sound is a contemporary recipe of indie-pop, soul, reggae, world, '60s rock 'n' roll, and R&B that runs a whole gamut of emotions. I'm tempted to start down the "must categorize" path and try to come up wuth a new term for Asa (pronounced "Asha"), but I'm going to just leave the sweet sounds be. They defy definition.

Born in Paris and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, the singer's unusual name means "Hawk" in Yoruba, the Nigerian language she sings in besides English. She may not seem like a hawk with her easy smile, oversized glasses, and geek-chic style, but Asa's hunt for her art is as fierce as any bird of prey. At an early age, she was a nonstop songbird, poring over her father's records--Fela Kuti, Marvin Gaye, and Bob Marley being just a few. Although her low-pitched voice initially prevented her from joining local choirs, she kept at it, later finding a producer to record her.

While studying and testing out the music-scene waters in Paris, Asa got into the likes of Erykah Badu, D'Angelo, and Lauryn Hill. Her popularity suddenly exploded, allowing her to open for acts like Akon, Snoop Dogg, and Beyoncé in Nigeria and causing her phonetically titled debut album Asha to go platinum in France. Having toured throughout the world, Asa is now out to win over American ears, and she gave a stunning performance at this year's SXSW that had Yahoo! Music scrambling to bring her in for an acoustic performance.

Watch Asa perform "Dreamer Girl," "Be My Man," "Preacher Man," and "Why Can't We Be Happy," off her sophomore album, Beautiful Imperfection, below!

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