Asa’s Afrobeats Challenge: All Groove, Less Lyrics

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Nigerian singer-songwriter Asa tasted international success early in her career when her debut album Asa went platinum in 2007.

What followed was difficult, she admits: “People still want this album after more than a decade.”

But other albums followed: Beautiful Imperfection, Bed of Stone, Lucid in 2019, and she just released her fifth studio album titled simply V (five).

Born in Paris, where her Nigerian parents worked and studied film, her family moved back to Nigeria when she was two years old.

She grew up in Lagos and returned to France 18 years later to study jazz and begin her career as a recording artist.

“My dad played a lot of music at home, and of course there was the influence of the church. But then, growing up, I started listening to soul music and jazz, and I think it was a combination of all of that.

But then her mother issued a challenge, pointing out that Asa was singing all the songs of these other people: “Who are you? How do we know who you are?

“That’s when I started listening to the radio and trying to do my own collaborations. So and so featuring Asa… just to find my voice.

The new album V has a more electronic pop vibe compared to her previous Lucid, which relied heavily on her experience as a woman.

“Lucid was a time when I was in a relationship, and that ended. It was such a new experience for me. And also I was learning more about life, growing up. Lucid was really about this experience.

Asa’s new album has collaborations with The Cavemen, Amaarae and most notably Wizkid on the track IDG (I Don’t Go).

“You know he’s an amazing person. I only met him a few times. But I think he’s very nice. You know you could tell from his heart. I enjoy his melodies. I think he’s brilliant.

The new album was made in confinement, which Asa really appreciated.

“Everything was calm, we could hear the birds. It was a beautiful thing to see. Not people’s suffering, but just the way the world was. There was such a novelty. It was just like the beginning. The sky over Lagos was blue for the first time in a very long time and the water was calm.

Asa says it was also a time of soul-searching, fear and uncertainty with the coronavirus pandemic.

“Writing V was all of that, the fear and excitement that I inject.”

Writing in the Afrobeats genre has been a challenge for Asa because it’s more about a vibe than writing songs in the traditional way.]

“It’s less lyrics, but more groove. That doesn’t make it bad.

“You just don’t know where the songs come from. I think that’s why when you ask artists where inspiration comes from, they say, “Oh, it comes from God. We’re talking about afrobeats here, it’s groove. We’re not talking about lyrics here.

“People want to forget. People want to profit. You know because that’s all they have. Groove.”

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