Singer shuts down Lagos, with band, 30 piece orchestra and pure magic

How Asa came into town and sprinkled magic in what has become the best music concert in Lagos.

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And that’s because the Asa you listen, and the Asa that goes on stage to perform her music, are two extremely different entities and experience. While you listen and connect to her music on an emotional level when you play her album, you become one with her when you watch her perform.

In 2016, Asa rounded off her “Bed Of Stone” tour in Lagos, after playing across several venues across the world. Lagos, her homeland, was where she retired the tour, and went back to her base in Paris to recoup. This year, she kicked off with an ‘Encore’ in Lagos.

It’s been 10 years since Asa dropped her game-changing debut album, “Asa”. A lot has changed since then. Gone is the hopeful kid with a great voice and songwriting skills. Over time, that kid had grown, and evolved into an uber-star, with all-round perfection and artistry capable of performing at the highest level. Two more full length albums have been released since 2007, with the latest – “Bed Of Stone” – coming as recent as 2014.

Bringing all the elements, sounds, lights, emotions and lyrics that have made up her life these past 10 years, Asa performed with her band and a 30 piece Lagos Orchestra (Vesta Violins) on April 29, 2017 at the Eko Convention Centre, Eko Hotel and Suites.

Asa was accompanied by her band, and serenaded by the Vesta Violins Ensemble/Chamber Orchestra, a 30-member international ensemble based in Lagos Nigeria. The Ensemble is Nigeria's first independent chamber orchestra, founded in 2016 by a group friends who saw the need to bring musicians together to play regularly and raise the quality and standard of  classical music in Nigeria building a repertoire of both the classical and the contemporary.

As usual, the opening acts were handpicked by the singer herself, and they were comprised of Nonso Bassey, Lindsey Abudei, Tay Iwar, Omolara, Funbi and Aramide who set the mood for the singer. Each of the artists were picked because of their progressive fusion sounds, and ability to perform live music. They did a great job, with the audience warming up to each one of them.

And then there was Asa. Where 2016 concert packed a controlled crowd, this one had everyone…or so it seems. The hall was brimming with fans, who screamed at every point, in anticipation of the happiness and experience that Asa holds.

A South African lady and her daughter had made the trip from Johannesburg, South Africa, to Lagos, for this concert. They had never experienced Asa perform live, and they were eager to know what the deal is.

“What is Asa like live? This is the first time I am seeing her live.” The mother asked.

“It’s pure magic. Don’t blink, you might miss something.” I responded.

Everything felt magical. The hall went dark, the violins began a number, and as everyone waited anxiously, Asa strolled onstage, beautiful and glowing in a white jumpsuit. She launched into ‘Awe’ and ‘Satan be gone’. It was wonderful. It was immersive, the crowd had the emotion, the sound was perfect, and in that hall, magic happened.

“Are you feeling tonight?” Asa sceamed. The crowd screamed back. “Yesssssssssss”.

“Are you ready to dance?”

“Yesssssss!!!!”

“Are you ready to worship?”

Slight hesitation. And then: “Yesssssssss!”

Of course everyone was ready for anything and everything. Asa was not just our performer on the night. She had become us. The music, the sound, the lighting and the atmosphere had created an uncanny connection between the singer and all who were in the room. We had almost become worshippers, hanging on to her every move, word, lyric, dance and laughter.

In that moment we were Asa.

The show continued. ‘New Year’, came on. And at the end, Asa launched into her playful dancing, backed by her lead guitarist. The dance is a great element of her performance. Asa dances like a child, with no set moves. She allows the music control her soul, and it manifests in beautiful body sequences that excites, fascinates but hard to understand. A mystery dance.

She was handed a guitar, and and she began a story of how she got signed. According to Asa, while she was a student in France, she had the chance to audition for a gig. She showed up, and was ignored for 10 hours. Tired and hungry, she persevered, got her chance and was chosen to perform.

On that night of the show, she only had two minutes on stage. But after that, five record labels were fighting for her signature. She finally got signed and released her critically acclaimed, multi-platinum selling, self-titled debut album "Asa".

And then the songs came: ‘Bed of stone’, ‘The way I feel’, ‘Society’, ‘The one that never comes’, ‘Preacher man’.

As part of her ‘Bibanke’ performance, she sits on the thigh of one young violinist, and asks him the question. “Am I too heavy for you?”

She then proceeds to woo the guy, and at some point says: “Do you have a girlfriend? When you get home, and she gets mad at you, tell her it is Asa. She will understand.”

I understood. I wanted some Asa myself. That guy is the luckiest man on earth.

‘Moving on’ came up, and it was followed by ‘Subway’.

Asa tells another story, but this time it was humorous. She shared her encounter with a Chinese taximan who knew Davido, but thought he was from Niger Republic. It was an example of how Nigerian music has spread all around the world.

“Things have changed. She said. We’ve always been rich, we’ve always been grown. But now doors are opening. People come and eat here. They need us. They need our sound.” She said.

Asa brought the crowd in on her dreams of being a comedian, a trumpeter, a Pastor’s wife, and more before performing ‘Eye Adaba’ and ‘So beautiful’.

She disappeared off stage, and returned with a simpler body hugging jumpsuit, which afforded more movement and dance time. And it was in this outfit that she walked the hall, hugging everyone, creating memories, and inspiring smiles on the faces of whoever she touched and hugged. She had creative abandon, as her carefree spirit floated across the full expanse of the venue as she sang ‘Jailer’.

‘Be my man’ came next, and then another switch of outfits happened. ‘Akinyele’ was performed, and then the credits rolled. Everyone on stage was thanked and appreciated while we sang and danced to the glitzy sound of ‘Why can’t we’.

I didn’t want to let go. No one wanted to let go. Asa had turned in another masterful performance, designed and executed without one flaw. In one year since she last performed at this venue, she had done the impossible by improving on perfection. This was everything. This was the best side of life.

But it isn’t over. There’s the promise of more to come.

“Did you have fun?” Asa asked. And of course the response was “Yessssss!”

“Should we do this again?”

“Yeesssssssss!!!”

“We do this next year!” She declared.

And for the final time, the crowd screamed.

“Yeessssssssssssssssssssssssssss!!!”

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