‘Powerful’ and ‘charismatic’ are the words that come to mind on seeing Asa perform live recently in Kilburn. The singer’s music has instant catchy hooks that leave you humming them long after you hear them. Her second album, with its oxymoron title of Beautiful Imperfection, delves once again into strong hooks and meaningful tracks that oscillate between themes of politics, love and fun, all encapsulated by her distinctive husky vocals. Over in the UK, where she gives a one-off private performance at the BBC, Flavour gets beautifully close.
We read somewhere that someone said you are like the 21st Century version of Bob Marley. How do you deal with a statement like that?
When people compare me to him it is interesting, but I really appreciate it. It really is flattering because Bob Marley is one of my big influences and he did so much for music. His music inspires me, but I also love listening to him for pure pleasure.
Do you understand why you get the comparisons, though, because you seem a little shocked?
I do not know why they compare me to him. Personally I do not think I look like him – maybe it is the dreadlocks [laughs]. I think it is about the kind of music I do and the messages I try to convey in my music.
So can you have something that is beautiful and imperfect at the same time?
Yes, of course you can. I mean, life is beautiful and imperfect at the same time. There is always the good and there is always the bad; there is balance in the world.
And what does this profound title mean to you?
I was actually going through a particular experience at the time, it was a tough time personally. I kind of saw life in a different way, but it made me stronger and made me more mature in my outlook. It is me accepting that the world is what it is and I am not really looking for any beauty in it. I have seen it and experienced it, and now I have come to accept it. Whatever I choose, I will go with.
You say this current album is happier – in what other ways is the album different?
Well, I would not say it is different I would say it is a continuation from the first album. There are still the lovely tones and the lovely melodies. But I did not want to get boxed as a particular artist because I am still young and I have still got a lot to say. I wanted to go in a slightly different direction, one that was indeed happier in some of its subject matter.
How are you adapting to your ever growing popularity?
Before the first album, I had all the time in the world to do whatever I wanted to do – and then it gets more and more complicated, and you find out you have less time for yourself.
Sounds like this album was a little stressful, maybe?
Yes, I did feel pressured – not from the people that I was working with, but rather from the fans and mostly pressure personally. It was hard for me to express myself and do what I wanted to do. It was a difficult time really, and as soon as I was able to pass that period of confusion, then I was able to express myself, and do what I wanted to do, and work with the people I wanted to work with, and create the sound I wanted. I am really happy with this album.
Your first single is ‘Be My Man’, which definitely shows and conveys that happier feel you were speaking about.
The song is a playful one and me wanting my man to be the way I want him to be, and if he is, then I will be his woman. It came about through conversations with my girlfriends – because when we women are together we just talk about men and how they are. It came from personal experiences, but the song came from the melody and then the chorus just came, so it was great.
Your fans will be keen to see you perform live, tell us about your touring plans.
I will definitely be touring as much as I can for 2011 and trying to build on the success of my two albums.
Interview by Semper Azeez-Harris