Nigerian singer Asa talks about prejudice: ‘Paris is about race, Nigeria is about gender’

“In Paris, I don’t think about gender,” she told CNN’s Zain Asher at Access Bank’s International Women’s Day conference earlier this month in Lagos. “I have to fight that I’m from Nigeria, I’m from Africa … gender is not an issue. In Nigeria I have to fight (for my) sex.”

The multi-award-winning artist, whose fifth studio album V was released in February, said her gender had a profound influence on her behavior early in her career.

“I was very conscious of my femininity, so when I went to the studio I had to wear baggy clothes because I didn’t want to emphasize the fact that I’m female,” she said. “I didn’t want to draw attention to myself, I wanted to go there and do the job.”

Aṣa said these choices caused men to question their sexuality. “I would have men say, ‘Are you even a woman? What’s wrong with you?’” She says she’s also had to fight the perception that as an artist she must have “slept her way to the top. “People think if you’re an artist you sleep around, so I had to prove that to the family,” she told CNN.

In her youth, Aṣa said she was mostly inspired by male musicians. “Growing up, my influences were men — strong men, Bob Marley, Fela Kuti; and when i saw what they were doing i said i want to do the same. I saw her influence people with her words, she got the government to react, people loved, people laughed, and I wanted to do the same.”

equality and respect

But the famous solo singer also said she struggled with her parents’ attitudes towards her upbringing, particularly her disciplining father. “It was boot camp at home — he let us eat beans for a year and insisted the housekeeper dress the weevils and sprinkle them for protein!”

She says she was raised “to be a wife.” “You have to learn how to cook for your man, you have to be cute for your man, and I was like, ‘Am I going to do all this for one person? And I don’t even know who the person is! ‘”

The star said she’s more relaxed about relationships now. “Believe me, once when I was, I think 28, I used to look at every man who passed me – ‘Is he the right one?’ ‘Is he the one?’ It didn’t work and I let God do his job, you know?”

Now, with five hit albums behind her, Aṣa believes women still don’t get equal opportunities. “I want to see women selling whiskey and being whiskey brand ambassadors. I enjoy a whiskey occasionally – why not be a brand ambassador for it? Why should it always be male? No, women enjoy these things.”

The most important thing for the 39-year-old is that men and women are on an equal footing. “I think we can find a balance,” she said. “Nobody says we have to be at the forefront of the new wave of feminism. I’m just saying we can be equal and respect each other.” Nigerian singer Asa talks about prejudice: ‘Paris is about race, Nigeria is about gender’

Charles Jones

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