Similar to the British Invasion of the 1960s, a Nigerian Invasion of musical acts has been scoring success in the Anglophone world for decades: Fela Kuti, Sade, Sunny Adé, Seal, Femi Kuti, Ayọ, Nneka… and now, Aṣa.
Raised in Lagos, the soulful 29-year-old was born Bukola Elemide in Paris to Nigerian parents. The diverse influences of D’Angelo, Angélique Kidjo, Erykah Badu, Lagbaja and others whose music Aṣa played relentlessly in Lagos reveal themselves in her albums: Aṣha (2007) and Beautiful Imperfection (2010).
After receiving a top-flight education in southwestern Nigeria, Aṣa returned to Paris (which she’d last seen as a 2-year-old child) to launch her music career.
The young trumpeter-guitarist-drummer-vocalist started entering radio talent shows and café showcases, winning frequently. Writing songs in both English and Yoruba—her adopted name Aṣa is Yoruba for “hawk”—she began performing live on bills with acts like Les Nubians.
Recording first “Eyé Adaba,” then the breakthrough single, “Jailer,” Aṣa returned to Nigeria and was quickly tapped to open concerts for international R&B singers like John Legend, Beyoncé and Akon.
Her popularity amplified, a record deal soon produced 2007’s Aṣha. Her distinctive blend of soul, reggae and world musics blended seamlessly with the social and political content of her lyrics.
Though last year’s Beautiful Imperfection was more of a pop effort, critics continue to compare Aṣa to a contemporary Bob Marley.
Nigeria shines again; without a doubt, Aṣa is one to watch.