In the spotlight today is Nigeria’s unofficial Minister of Enjoyment (although touring with over 20 musicians, Minister of Employment could be an equally valid nickname). The premier exponent of Juju – a thrilling mix of African beats and Western instrumentation – take a bow, King Sunny Adé.
Guitarist/vocalist Sunday Adéniyi aka King Sunny Adé born,Oshogbo, Nigeria. Serving his musical apprenticeship in the snappily-named Rhythm Dandies, Adé formed The Green Spots in 1966.
Initially betraying the influence of fellow Nigerian juju performers Tunde Nightingale and I.K.Dairo (whose backing band was The Blue Spots), King Sunny would develop his own style and successfully integrate instruments such as accordion, synth and pedal steel guitar.
Renaming his band The African Beats, some low-key dates in the USA followed in 1974. Returning in 1982 for a headline tour, crossover success and international attention followed on the back of his “Juju Music” album, released on Island Records offshoot, Mango. “Syncho System” and “Aura” then added synthesisers in an attempt to make Sunny’s sound more ‘contemporary’.
However that major label venture then foundered on Ade’s refusal to sanction remixes of his tracks for different markets, for fearing of adulterating his ‘pure’ sound. He subsequently returned to releasing records in Nigeria, with occasional distribution deals allowing a limited supply of his albums in other territories.
Well-received on his periodic trips to the USA and Europe – and still prone to playing sets of up to four hours – Adé remains a Nigerian celebrity. And although avowedly apolitical, works with the Nigerian Music Federation to combat music piracy in his homeland and through his own Foundation, runs scholarship programmes for aspiring musicians.
Check out and purchase King Sunny Ade CDs from our e-shop, Propermusic.com by clicking on the logo below:
And here’s some footage of King Sunny in action: