King Sunny Ade, the king of Worldbeat has told City People that he has no plans of retiring from music. In a recent interview, he said, “I can’t retire from playing music. I have looked around and I can’t see any musician retiring from active music. I enjoy what I do and I will continue to play music.”
KSA spoke to City People at the Annual Presidential Gala Night of Association of Friends in Lagos on Sunday, 14th November 2021. KSA dazzled everyone at the event, held at the Clubhouse in Maryland, Lagos where he thrilled guests for 6 scintillating hours. By the time the party ended well into the night, KSA had managed to convince everyone that he is still a Great entertainer and Composer, as he dished out all his great hits and evergreen songs. And he showed his dancing prowess on stage, which he is known for, along with his 25-man band.
Because he didn’t play his Guitar, he had enough room to dance and display his dexterity at dancing. Many who watched KSA dancing for over 6 hours that evening could not believe that the Juju music maestro still has a lot of fire in him, as he dished out different dance steps. KSA has always been good at stage performance.
Over the years, he has managed to keep his pencil-slim frame, with no pot belly at all. Though age has mellowed him a bit at 75, he is still fit and agile and he constantly jumps up and down, on stage. He is no doubt a great entertainer that he has always been, as he kept members of the club and their guests, on their feet dancing to KSA’s music.
City People asked him for the secret of his agility at 75 and whether he was thinking of slowing down anytime soon. and he said no.
How has he continued to sustain his stage craft, and dancing at 75? “Its God. It is only God. There is no other way. We just have to keep praying about it. We can only pray. It is God that has done it this way not me. Oro mi ko gbejo wewe, ju ka sha ma dupe ni. If I was the one making it happen, I would have been proud about it. It would have gotten into my head. I would have been boasting about it.”
What also helps is when I see people like you, my fans, the media, all appreciating my work, I get inspired. There is something about seeing people dancing to your music. I feel honoured, it will ginger you. It makes you happy. And when you are happy, you will give your best. So let’s give honour to whom honour is due. Let’s give kudos to almighty God. He is the one doing it.”
Is he planning a new album soon? “We have plans. We have songs. But the market is not vibrant as before. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we can not do much. The CDs are not selling. What you now have is people taking our music and cutting it into 3 mins and selling it. We are working on new songs. By God’s grace we would come out with something, soon. Social media has changed the game. Every thing is on the go, every hour. COVID slowed things down. All the sectors were affected by COVID Lockdown. Thank God, we are coming out of it gradually. But the economy is a bit down.”
How did he cope during COVID lockdown, when there was no show? “It is God. It was God that sustained us. Olorun lo nko eeyan. It was God that made it possible. Nobody expected it. And that is what I used to tell my boys, that you have to learn to keep something aside for the rainy day. You will be needing it. You don’t know how tomorrow will be. God resolved it. God is in love with Nigeria. We are only suffering from too much enjoyment.”
Each time people watch his performance and see him dancing and jumping up at 75, many wonder where he gets his energy from. How does he do it? Where does he get the stamina? Does he jog? Does he exercise?
“It is because playing music makes me happy. It is what I call the Invincible power of music. It is an invincible injection. Music is powerful. It takes you over. You don’t need anything else to join it. You don’t need to drink. You don’t need to smoke. When you give them good music and you see people around you dancing, you will be energised to compose beautiful music. You can see what happened here a few minutes ago when I praise sang High Chief Raymond Dokpesi. He stood up with his wife and he almost forgot he was dancing in public and he began to dig it. It was the music I sang that got to him. That is it.”
When KSA is invited to an event, how does he compose the music he is to sing? “Usually, we don’t have any idea or selection of songs. It is when we get there that we decide what to sing and the mood of the party. We would just look at how to make people happy with our songs. We are here to make people happy. We are here to do our best and our best is yet to come. We try to do our best everyday, but our best is yet to come.”
“When we get to a party we size up the mood of the party and the kind of music to sing comes immediately and when I start singing it, all these my boys will back it up and they will match it together and it becomes BIG. I am grateful to members of the band.”
Does he still do rehearsals weekly? “Yes, we do. We rehearse. What we do today is part of our rehearsal. When we get back now, to rehearsal, we would now remind ourselves that this is what we did last week. What has helped is that me, myself, I am an Entertainer, and I do quality music. I play quality music. I want people to look at me, like what they see and like the music and be happy. We need to continue to play music that will lift the soul. Good music will make you feel alright. That is the power of music.”
How has he been able to keep looking fit at 75? Is there a particular food he eats? Does he still eat pounded yam? What is his favourite meal? “I am not a fan of a particular food. But I must say I love Eba and Pounded yam. Yes. But pounded yam has been changed to Poundo in Lagos. So eventually you can’t get good pounded yam like before. But I love to eat good food.”
Does he have plans to retire at 75? “Hmmmm. I am yet to see any musician retire from music. It is in the blood, until when you cannot move or sing again and you are hundred and something years and your body is shaking when they give you the microphone. So, I can’t retire from music. Music is in me. Music is in my blood. Once I pick up the microphone, music comes. I have been doing this now for decades. There is no stopping music. If I stop singing, what will I be doing? What else is there to do? So, music for me is a lifetime thing.”
Chief Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye MFR was born on 22 September 1946. Known professionally as King Sunny Adé, he is a Jùjú singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He is regarded as one of the first African pop musicians to gain international success, and has been called one of the most influential musicians of all time.
He formed his own band in 1967, eventually known as his African Beats. After achieving national success in Nigeria during the 1970s and founding his own independent label, Sunny Adé signed to Island Records in 1982 and achieved international success with the albums Juju Music (1982) and Synchro System (1983); the latter garnered him a Grammy nomination, a first for a Nigerian artist. His 1998 album Odu also garnered a Grammy nomination. Sunny Adé currently serves as chairperson of the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria.
He was born in Osogbo to a Nigerian royal family from Ondo and Akure, thereby making him an Omoba of the Yoruba people. His father was a church organist, while his mother, Maria Adegeye (née Adesida), was a trader. As a member of the Adesida dynasty, his mother’s relatives included her father Oba Adesida I (who ruled Akure for 60 years) and would later include her nephew and Adé’s cousin, Oba Adebiyi Adegboye Adesida Afunbiowo II, who also served as King of Akure.
Sunny Adé left grammar school in Ondo City under the pretense of going to the University of Lagos. It was thus in Lagos that his eclectic musical career began.
His 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.
He was influenced by Juju pioneer Tunde Nightingale and borrowed stylistic elements from his ‘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 Order of the Federal Republic.
After more than a decade of resounding success in Nigeria, he was received to great acclaim in Europe and North America in 1982. The global release of Juju Music and its accompanying tour was “almost unanimously embraced by critics (if not consumers) everywhere”. Sunny 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”. Sunny Adé‘s stage show was characterized by top musicianship, highlighted by his mastery of the guitar, and dexterous dancing.
His 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. His music is in the age-old tradition of singing poetic lyrics (“ewi” in Yoruba) and praise singing of dignitaries as well as components of Juju (traditional African belief) called the Ogede (casting of spells). Hence, Sunny Adé’s music constitutes a record of the oral tradition of his people for posterity.
He introduced the pedal steel guitar to Nigerian pop music. He introduced the use of synthesizers, clarinet, vibraphone, tenor guitar into the jùjú music repertoire such as dub and wah-wah guitar licks. Sunny 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.
Sunny Adé with his band invented his unique sound and instrumental which he mostly uses as an entrance song during live performances. The sound was made with a phalanx of electric guitars that functions like a percussion section and talking drums that sound like a gossipy Greek chorus.