“King” Sunny Adé MFR (born Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye on 22 September 1946) sometimes also called the Minister of Enjoyment, is a Nigerian musician, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and a pioneer of modern world music. He has been classed as one of the most influential musicians of all time. In March 2017, he was appointed as the “Change Begins With Me” campaign ambassador by the Nigerian minister of Information Lai Mohammed.
Adé was born in Osogbo to a Nigerian royal family from Ondo, thus making him an Omoba of the Yoruba people. His father was a church organist, while his mother was a trader from Akure. Adé left grammar school in Ondo under the pretense of going to the University of Lagos. There, in Lagos, his mercurial musical career started.
Sunny Adé’s musical sound has evolved from the early days. His career began with Moses Olaiya’s Federal Rhythm Dandies, a highlife band. He left to form a new band, The Green Spots, in 1967. Over the years, for various reasons ranging from changes in his music to business concerns, Sunny Adé’s band changed its name several times, first to African Beats and then to Golden Mercury.
King Sunny was influenced by the legendary Tunde Nightingale (early Juju pioneer extraordinary) and borrowed stylistic elements from Nightingale’s ‘So wa mbe’ style of juju.
He founded the King Sunny Ade Foundation, an organization that includes a performing arts center, a state of the art recording studio, and housing for young musicians.
He is a visiting lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile- Ife and recipient of the national honour of Member of the Order of the Federal Republic.
He is making a special appearance in FIFTY
In the 1970s and 1980s Adé embarked on a tour of America and Europe. His stage act was characterised by dexterous dancing steps and mastery of the guitar.
After more than a decade of resounding success in his native Nigeria, Adé was received to great acclaim in Europe and North America in 1982.The global release of Juju Musicand its accompanying tour was “almost unanimously embraced by critics (if not consumers) everywhere”. Adé was described in The New York Times as “one of the world’s great band leaders”, in Record as “a breath of fresh air, a positive vibration we will feel for some time to come” and in Trouser Press as “one of the most captivating and important musical artists anywhere in the world”.
His next album, Syncro System (1983), was equally successful, earned him his first Grammy Award nomination in the ethnic/traditional folk recording category, hence making him the first Nigerian Grammy award nominee ever
On 16 July 2017, King Sunny Ade announced that he would be returning to stage in London along side his rival act Ebenezer Obey for a musical comeback themed A Night 2 Remember with the Legends
A fusion of sounds
Sunny Adé’s music is characterised by, among other instruments, the talking drum – an instrument indigenous to his Yoruba roots, the guitar and his peculiar application to jùjú music, that would easily put him in the same class as guitar musicians like Santana. His music is in the age-old tradition of singing poetic lyrics (“ewi” in Yoruba) and praise of dignitaries as well components of Juju (traditional African belief) called the Ogede (casting a spell). Hence, Adé’s music constitutes a record of the oral tradition of his people for posterity.
Sunny Adé introduced the pedal steel guitar to Nigerian pop music. He introduced the use of synthesizers, clavinet, vibraphone, tenor guitar into the jùjú music repertoire such as dub and wah-wah guitar licks. Adé said he used these instruments not as an attempt to innovate, but as a substitute for traditional jùjú instruments which were too difficult to find and/or impractical for touring. The pedal steel guitar, for instance, was added to his repertoire as a sound-alike for an African violin.
After the death of Bob Marley, Island Records began looking for another third world artist to put on its contract, while Fela Kuti had just been signed by Arista Records. Producer Martin Meissonnier introduced King Sunny Adé to Chris Blackwell, leading to the release of Juju Music in 1982. Robert Palmer claims to have brought King Sunny Adé to Island’s attention, his familiarity being from his life on Malta in the 60s listening to African Radio and Armed Forces Radio. Adé gained a wide following with this album and was soon billed as “the African Bob Marley”.
Sunny Adé has said that his refusal to allow Island to meddle with his compositions and over-Europeanise and Americanise his music were the reasons why Island then decided to look elsewhere.
Sunny has collaborated with major artists such as Manu Dibango (Wakafrika) and Stevie Wonder (who played harmonica on Aura), as well as younger Nigerian artists such as Wasiu Alabi Pasuma and Bola Abimbola.
Sunny Adé’s brief recordings with Island Records opened the floodgates for other world music artists like Senegalese Youssou N’Dour, Mali’s Salif Keita and many others.
In 1987, Sunny Adé returned to the international spotlight when Rykodisc released a live concert he did in Seattle.
He soon employed an American manager, Andrew Frankel, who negotiated another three album record deal with the Mesa record label (a division of Paradise Group) in America. One of these albums was 1988’s Odu, a collection of traditional Yoruba songs, for which he was nominated for the second Grammy Award and thus making him the first African to be nominated twice for a Grammy. Apart from being an international musician Sunny Adé is also prominent in his native Nigeria, running multiple companies in several industries, creating a non-profit organisation called the King Sunny Adé Foundation, and working with the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria.
In recent times, hip hop music appears to be holding sway with the electronic media in Nigeria with massive airplays. Nonetheless, Sunny Adé’s musical output has continued to inspire a vast generation of other Nigerian musicians, who believe in the big band musical set up which Sunny Adé and late Fela Kuti are noted for. The musician Lagbaja is one of the very many musicians whom Sunny Adé’s music has inspired. In 2008, his contributions to world music was recognised; as he was given an award for his outstanding contribution to world music at the International Reggae and World Music Awards held at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.
At the beginning of another round of tour of the United States and Canada, Sunny Adé, now known as The Chairman in his home country, was appointed a visiting professor of music at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife. In July the same year King Sunny Adé was inducted into the Afropop Hall of Fame, at the Brooklyn African Festival in the United States. He dedicated the award to the recently deceased Michael Jackson.
In the 1980s Adé embarked on a career in Hollywood. His music was featured in the 1983 film Breathless, starring Richard Gere, and the 1986 comedy One More Saturday Night, and he acted in Robert Altman’s 1987 comedy O.C. and Stiggs.
Sunny Adé has received numerous awards during his career. In November 2016 he became a recipient of the AFRIMA award. In December 2016 he was inducted into Hard Rock Cafe hall of fame.
|Breathless||King Sunny Adé (Music)||1983|
|O.C. and Stiggs||King Sunny Adé (Music & appearance)||1985 (Filmed 1983)|
|One More Saturday Night||King Sunny Adé (Music)||1986|
|Fifty||King Sunny Adé (Music & appearance)||2015|