Asa is clearly a talented writer and musician with a great voice.
Tim Nelson 2008-02-20
At first blush, it seems just possible that the heavy advance promotion about Asa might actually be true. This Nigerian singer-songwriter might actually be a twenty-first century Bob Marley, bringing together the best of Western and African music in a funky fusion that opens hearts and minds and paves the way for deeper understanding. That lasts about one minute on the opening track, Jailer, until the driving style Asa seemed to promise is drowned in a vapid aural slush.
The worst offender here is Eye Adaba a Yoruban ballad overwhelmed by an orchestral backing that would have seemed embarrassingly MOR on Heart Radio. But the clodhopping production by Cobahms Asuquo never lets up, hamstringing even the politically-driven first single Fire on the Mountain with a horribly mechanical rhythm track, phoned-in harmonies and glittery programming that seems blithely ignorant of the song's harsh message of a greedy humanity: ''fooling with a dead man’s corpse''. Asuquo's offences are too numerous to mention, and might be best summed up as the equivalent of an Artex-obsessed plasterer, or a child scribbling felt-tips over a rare book of illustrations. The model here would seem to be Macie Gray, but these arrangements would have still seemed like a pale imitation ten years ago.
Asa is clearly a talented writer and musician with a great voice (she has already opened for Beyonce and Snoop Dogg). It's to be hoped that she will break free of her (mis)management, ignore the siren-song of commerce, and live up to her rhetoric. Depressingly, however, she is currently being approached by MTV to take the role of 'ambassador for Africa', which would seem to go hand-in-hand with her stated aim ''to show the world that something beautiful and positive can come out of the black continent''. Really? You don’t say! A missed opportunity...