Asa is a prodigal student of global music. Born in France and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, the vocalist, songwriter, and occasional guitarist grew up rooting through her father’s record collection, a hodgepodge of polished pop and classic soul, dub reggae and traditional Africana. Once she was back in Paris, Asa channeled her disparate influences into Beautiful Imperfection, a sparkling pop album colored with exciting international touchstones.
Soft-spoken with a confessional bent, Asa (pronounced “Asha”) carries mid-range vocals with confidence and flare, and she flaunts a diverse cache of vocal styles. Her croon rolls low and smoky, recalling the atypical blue notes of Billie Holiday, but with more sass and bounce. When her band lays down neo-soul, she belts like Erykah Badu; when elements of afro-folk or highlife dominate the tune, Asa takes on the peppered delivery of King Sunny Adé. Some of Beautiful Imperfection’s most memorable songs are those she sings in the West African Yorùbá language.
Overall, Asa’s tone is both bright-sided and pragmatic. “You worry much about the things you don’t understand,” she sings on the opening song. “But don’t give up if it doesn’t go with the plan. Why not have some fun?”
Have something to say? Send a letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. This article first appeared in the November-December 2011 issue of Utne Reader.