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Dive Into Asa’s Musical Journey As She Covers GQ South Africa’s Music & Creativity Issue

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Bukola Elemide’s stage name, Aṣa (pronounced Asha), reflects her childhood wanderlust, which often caused her mother worry. An old neighbour bestowed the name, Aṣa, meaning “hawk” in Yorub, on her.

It’s a fitting choice, as Aṣa’s music embodies the hawk’s spirit. Her raw, powerful voice echoes the bird’s piercing cry, and just as the hawk soars across vast distances, Aṣa’s insatiable curiosity leads her to explore diverse musical territories, constantly seeking new horizons.

Right from the start, Asa knew she was made for music. “From a very early age, I knew that music was my calling, and I was to pursue a career in it,” she says.

In 2017, Aṣa released her self-titled debut album, which earned her the Prix Constantin and charted in the French Top 20. This was followed by “Beautiful Imperfection” in 2010, which brought her a Victoires de la Musique award for Female Artist of the Year. Her subsequent albums include “Bed of Stone” (2014), “Lucid” (2019), and “V” (five) in 2022.

“I was always fascinated when I saw musicians. Artists like Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, Nina Simone, Marvin Gaye and Miriam Makeba stood out to me,” she recalls. “I was drawn to these musicians because they weren’t just making music for fun; they were also conveying messages. I wanted to be a part of that.”

Asa recently sat down with GQ to discuss her musical odyssey, her artistry, and and her ability to create genre-bending music that resonates with audiences worldwide.

Read excerpts from the interview:

On pursuing music as a career

“From a very early age, I knew that music was my calling, and I was to pursue a career in it. Music was a constant presence in our house – my father, a cinematographer, owned a diverse collection of vinyl records. My siblings and I were part of the church choir growing up. Of all the things I could pursue, music resonated with me the most.”

She shares her opinions of singing in Yoruba language  

“When I write in these languages, they suit certain types of music and messages that I want to convey. There are some songs that I cannot sing in English as they wouldn’t convey the message I want. Because of the tonal beauty and musicality of singing in Yoruba, it feels very personal, yet it also resonates with everyone. However, in terms of breaking through and reaching a wider audience, English is the global language.”

She adds that while she enjoys listening to and has performed ‘kind of’ in French on stage, she hasn’t sung a full album or song in the language.

Asked how her Nigerian/French heritage influences her musical style, she explains that her Nigerian roots keep her authentically African…

“I always allow for that space when I’m making music. I want to create music with everyone in mind, including those who may not know or understand my language or culture. But I always strive to include them. I’m from Nigeria; I want to act locally but think globally in my approach with music.”

Read the full story here.

Star Features