Bukola Elemide aka Asa was born in Paris and raised in Lagos. Her stage name (pronounced “Asha”) translates as “hawk” in Youruba, and she’s here to promote her second album “Beautiful Imperfection”.

Ivory Coast reggae artist Tiken Jah Fakoly is playing over here for the first time (although he has recorded in London before) and also has a new album out “African Revolution”, which includes the song “Political war” that features Asa, so this co-headlining gig tonight makes perfect sense. It’s also a sold out gig.

Both artists are playing 75 minutes each, with Asa on first. Her band consists of drums, bass, keyboards, rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, tumpet, trombone and a female backing singer. She has a great knack of crafting songs that reflect her Nigerian roots while blending with a contemporary soulful sound. She doesn’t play guitar tonight, preferring to concentrate on vocal duties but at one point she play a brief solo on a cornet.

There’s a fair amount of songs from the new album, a particular standout being “The way I feel” but it’s “Jailer” and “Fire on the mountain” from her first album that get particularly huge responses. She’s a great front person, chatting  amiably with the audience and joking that there would be no one here who would be interested in seeing her. She then launches into another song on the new album “Why can’t we be happy”, getting us to sing the “oooh, oooh” refrain that comes at the end of each line of the chorus. Her band are excellent and she says they give her the confidence to perform as she can rely on their playing. They can certainly lay down a soulful, funky groove, whether accompanying her on acoustic guitar only or rocking out with huge guitar riffs and tight drumming.

She ends with a song sung in Youruba and engages in some lithe Nigerian dancing which gets the audience whooping and dancing along with her. All in all it’s a great set. Definitely one to watch out for if you ever get a chance to see her live.

Tiken Jah Fakoly lives in exile in Mali as a result of his songs attacking the corruption in his own country. He’s also been banned from Senegal for criticising their president in 2007, so this is a man who uses his music to speak his mind.

“If you want to talk about this continent, you have to visit this continent” he announces as he launches into “African Revolution”, the title track off the latest album. This is a tune that espouses revolution through education and gets an immediate response from the crowd who pretty much en masse all get to their feet. There’s even a couple of guys running up and down the aisles gleefully waving a huge orange, white and green Ivory Coast flag 🙂

The band is firing on all cylinders and he makes particularly good use of his Kora player, the traditional West African guitar-like instrument shaped like a huge gourd. Fakoly has previously recorded in the Tuff Gong studios (recording home of Bob Marley) and highlights his reggae influences on pretty much every song. He’s got a good voice and spends most of the show running up and down the stage and jumping around to the music, the crowd matching his enthusiasm with each new song.

A good show from both artists. Either one of them would have been worth seeing on their own so this was a perfect package.