Headed towards the Royal Albert Hall last night, I knew I was in good company for a night with Asa. Genteel ladies and gentlemen handed over tickets for inspection before heading over to their respective tiers and seats. The whole affair carried a sense of sophistication, while still maintaining a measured but palpable excitement. This wasn’t surprising; this was Asa in concert.
While this crowd might have contained many of the faces found at a Davido or Wizkid concert, the energy was different; deferent to the ambience of the venue and the evening ahead.
At first, I was a bit concerned – the crowd seemed sparse and the venue much too large for the audience. But I needn’t have worried. By the time the opening act took to the stage, over a thousand people had gathered to hear our songbird soar.
Teeah, a young South African, opened with two of her singles. The first, Save Me, is a bass-filled neo-soul eargasm that gave me Floetry and early Jill Scott. Magic. The second was an Afro-Latin dance number called Zengeh, featuring Sarkodie. While this was more up-tempo, Teeah’s honeyed tones still dripped off the chords beautifully.
Asa opened her two-hour treat with a Yoruba exaltation of love. Based on the Bible’s definition, the narrator caressed the words:
Ife kii binu, ife kii ni igberaga, Ololufe mi….
Love is slow to anger, love is not proud, my love…
From the beginning, the performance felt like an intimate evening with a few friends shutting out the world and reminiscing on things golden and good. Asa travelled through ‘Fire on the Mountain’ to ‘Jailer’, ‘Eyo’, and ‘Bibanke’ with us, her friends and audience, following her – note for note, word for word, sound for lilting sound.
By the time she delved into her newer repertoire, the crowd was fully in sync. Selecting four songs from her latest album, V, the more ardent followers of her work were still able to sing along to the songs, despite them being only a few months old. ‘Ocean’, the debut single from this album, is a groovy, mellifluous track, and, if the other three songs are anything to go by, the album is a standout body of work.
The global lockdown of the last two years has done nothing to dull the shine on Asa’s crown. The singer remains a class act, showing off her blend of African roots and European infusions to perfection. It takes more than talent, however. The fact that most of her band members have been with her for over a decade is a testament to her work ethic and professionalism; the hallmarks of an artiste that is here to stay.
It’s been almost 24 hours and I am still buzzing. Last night was amazing. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am off in search of the album to extend this vibe for as long as possible.
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