Watch "Fire On The Mountain"
Watch Asa Perform "Jailer"
Nigerian singer-songwriter Asa (pronounced "Asha") makes soulful, heartfelt music that mixes weighty themes (spirituality, the environment, race) with lilting pop melodies. When the NPR Music team arrived in Austin, Texas, for the 2009 South by Southwest music festival and conference, I began scouting locations to shoot some videos of Asa performing. I wanted a space that would reflect the warmth of her songs and found the perfect spot: a large doorway in a downtown building that was painted in rainbow-colored stripes.
A few days later, when I finally had the pleasure of meeting Asa, I led her and her bandmates to the location I'd chosen, only to find that the city had since placed a row of turquoise Porta-Potties there, right in front of the colorful doorway. Asa was a good sport as we turned around and trekked back to the hotel where we'd originally met, toting her gear in the Austin heat.
We ended up in this gorgeous, if cavernous, second-floor lobby of the historic Driskill Hotel, with the afternoon sun pouring in through a wall of windows. Asa was joined by her guitarist and vocalist, Nicolas Mollard. I'd not heard of him before, but was knocked out by his playing. Together, they performed two tracks from Asa's self-titled debut: "Fire on the Mountain" and "Jailer."