It’s funny how the universe brings you things that you may (or may not) have known you were looking for. This is certainly the case with the beautiful new album by Nigerian singer/songwriter and composer Asa’s (pronounced “Asha”) self titled debut on Mercer Street Records (U.S.). (Album was released on Naive Records in Europe).

Born in Paris, France to Nigerian parents, Asa’s parents returned to Lagos while she, at aged two, would later return to her birthplace twenty years later to begin her career as a recording artist.

I first heard her single Jailer a while back on Jeremy Sole’s show on KCRW and both my wife and I kind of stopped what we were doing to listen more closely..
Asa’s sound is one of many influences, ranging from Bob Marley to Fela Kuti, to Joan Armatrading, (to name a few), but she remains in a style all of her own, blending reggae, funk, soul, hip hop, jazz, and her traditional Yoruba language into her own sound. Fans of either or all of the above should dig this or I’ll double your money back *lol*.

Multi-instrumentalist, gifted (and blind) Nigerian producer Cobhams Emmanuel Asuquo held down the arrangements and co-writing along with Asa, completing the project in a mere 6 weeks. Hammond organs, lush strings, flute (by Magic Malik) , upright bass, guitars, and slick percussion float throughout this 11 track journey like a dove in songs like Eyé àdaba, a morning song of prayer (sang in Yoruba), and the popular and catchy Jailer and Fire On The Mountain, with each respectively speaking on modern slavery and multiple social ills, in a way very reminiscent of how Bob (Marley) does – vividly telling you about the madness going on in the world while making you dance and then having you singing the songs in your head hours and hours after hearing them.

Songs about love (Subway), peace (360°), and dedications to her mother (Awé) make this debut one of the most complete and well balanced albums I’ve heard thus far for 2009.
The passionate songwriting, instrumentation, and style of the artist and producer exudes into every single track, resulting in a very impressive debut, one of reflection, peace and rebellion, and how they are all placed/displaced throughout life. Junior Star gives Asa 7 out of 7 head nods.

*Head Nod Scale
1=Don’t waste your time like I did mine.
2=Waste your time like I did mine but I dare you to disagree.
3=Well, there was the single.
4=If it were a hand in spades there’s “two and a possible”.
5=It’s a “good” album. Meaning at least 3 or 4 solid songs.
6=Really Good Project. Has the “Rewind Factor” more than once.
7=The number of completion. Great Album. Instant Classic.

Her album can be found at Amazon and iTunes and be sure to check out her website for videos and English translations of the songs on the album. Site can also be viewed in French.

Corrections and additions are marked in red except for album rating.