by Sheena Sood

Singer-songwriter Asa (pronounced "Asha") was born in Paris and raised in Lagos. "Lagos is the New York of Nigeria. If you want to get anywhere in music, that's where you'll find the best opportunities, as well as the worst pitfalls," she writes. In her twenties Asa returned to Paris and pursued a career an as artist. Bringing together the best of Western and African music, her songs are a mix of humming, captivating rhythms, and a reggae feel. Her talented voice and stirring lyrics make for an uplifting sound. She cites Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, and Aretha Franklin as some of her inspirations. The name Asa means little falcon; she acquired the nickname after running away as a child.

Asa performed three live tracks on BBC 2 this past 14 February and her eponymous debut album was just released in the U.K. on 18 February. The opening song, "Jailer," begins with a catchy refrain and is one of the highlights of the album. It denounces repression and modern slavery: "You suppress all my strategy/ You oppress every part of me/ What you don't know, you're a victim too Mr. Jailer." Though most songs are in English, some include Yoruban lyrics such as "Eye Adaba."

You can purchase Asa's album from Amazon and listen via her MySpace page or her website, which also includes videos, a schedule of upcoming European concerts, and a lengthier bio.