If there is one artiste on the face of the earth who has continued to break boundaries and defy all the Laws of ageing and diminishing returns, then that artiste must be Nigeria’s undisputable King of Juju music, King Sunny Ade, popularly known as KSA. This living Legend and music maestro has been blazing the music scene for well over five decades and right now, even at 76, he is still not looking to slow down yet. At least, thrice every week, KSA still performs back to back at major parties and events touring all the major states in the country. His stage craft, dance moves, unique vocals and the dexterity often displayed by his band are some of the reasons why time has been unable to blow away this phenomenal musician.
King Sunny Ade MFR (Chief Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye) has been an enduring inspiration to many Nigerian musicians who crave to ascend the heights he has reached in his hugely successful career. KSA is not just a world acclaimed superstar, he is a global music icon with many international awards and accolades under his belt. As would be expected of any entertainer with his humongous achievement, everything about KSA’s personal life and career have always been of interest to his fans. They want to know who his friends are, who his rivals are, who does he roll with and those he keeps away from. This is why, from way back in the 60s, his rivalry with his contemporary, Chief Ebenezer Obey, another iconic Juju musician considered one of the most successful and accomplished artiste to come out from this side of the planet, has continued to be a subject of debate amongst the fans of both music giants.
Back then in 60s through to the 80s, fans of these two superstars were always waiting for the album release of their favourite to hear what they had to say to each other. The rivalry was so intense that fans were often at each other’s throats, each defending and promoting his favourite to high heavens. But, many years after, both KSA and Chief Ebenezer Obey have both come out to debunk the rumour that they are bitter rivals and that they don’t see eye to eye. They say that contrary to what people used to think, they are very good friends and indeed relate like brothers. Below are extracts from the memoirs of King Sunny Ade titled, ‘KSA: My Life, My Music’ where he revealed the true relationship he shares with Chief Ebenezer Obey. He also shed light on his supposed rivalry with Emperor Pick Peters. Read excerpts below.
ON HIS RUMOURED FIGHT WITH EMPEROR PICK PETERS
“I could not release an album at that time because my contract with African
Songs had not run out. It was Admiral Dele Abiodun, who released an album which Abioro and the public assumed was a response to Pick Peters’ – on my behalf. The truth is I did not ask anybody to respond
on my behalf because there was nothing to respond to. The assumption that Dele Abiodun spoke for me was strengthened by the similarity between his voice and mine. Some even alleged that I was the one who sang the song. I could not have because there was never any quarrel between Emperor Pick Peters and me. I did not even get to meet him until months after I had quit African Songs.
The first time we met was in Ondo, during Ogun Day. A man came to greet me but his face did not look familiar. I am sure he must have been surprised at the lack of any hint of recognition in my response to his greeting. He introduced himself as Emperor Pick Peters. I greeted him
warmly, offered him a seat and we discussed. I never quarreled with Pick Peters or any other musician. Never! Could I have quarreled with a man I had not met?
Ebenezer Obey and I…
The case of Chief Ebenezer Obey was even more stunning. He is more of an elder brother than a fellow musician and I usually went to him for advice. Yet, many concluded that we were enemies and read meanings into our songs. If I sang, it was so because we emerged at the same time and people thought we should be bitter rivals. Record dealers probably helped in perpetrating the imaginary feud because sales usually shot up when fans were expecting their favorites’ response to alleged attack in a rival’s record.
While feuds between artistes were rampant in those days, Obey and I were never involved. This may be difficult to believe, as it was for some people who were close to both of us.
The Easy Motion War
with Fatai Rolling Dollars…
What could pass for a disagreement with an artiste happened a few years ago, when Pa Fatai Rolling Dollar accused me of using his material without permission. Rollin Dollar is old enough to be my father and the matter has been resolved. But I am saying it categorically that the
song in question does not belong to Fatai Rolling Dollar, but to J.O.
Araba (of blessed memory). When I sang the song, members of Araba family came to me and explained everything to me. I used
one of the songs in my albums abroad, but I could not locate them at that time until they contacted me. I even mentioned it in one of my radio interviews when I was the President, Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN), that we should know every musician’s family in case there is a need to contact them.
For example, there was a time we were looking for the picture of Cardinal Rex Lawson for five years and nobody could come up
with one. The only picture they had was the one on the sleeve of the album he recorded with Phillips Music. Eventually, it was his son who provided us with a picture.
‘The 1985 Japanese earthquake’…
Tokyo, Japan, 1985:
Ten years after my band was rocked by defection arising from the contractual crisis with African Songs Limited, I suffered a similar fate. It was a massive crisis that threatened the existence of the band. We were invited to Japan for a charity concert in aid of the victims of the famine in Ethiopia. The Japanese government was responsible for our transportation. To this end, a total of 30 tickets were issued to the band.
But the band was travelling with only 26 members, so there were four
extra tickets. Of the extra tickets, I gave one to my brother because he was an electrical appliance dealer in Benin. I also gave one to my neighbor, Mr.
Odebunmi and one to another friend.
We travelled to Tokyo through London, where we left some of our equipment for repairs. But no sooner had we got to Tokyo than my band members started acting funny. The change in attitude arose from a rumor which began before we left for Japan. It was rumored that Panasonic, manufacturers of electronics which sponsored the band on the tour, had promised to give 200 video recorders 100 television sets to the band. I told the band that the story was untrue. They apparently did not believe me, particularly because my brother was with us. They thought his purpose for travelling was to collect the video recorders and television sets for sale in his shop back home. We played successfully on the tour. A day before we were to leave Japan for Nigeria, via London, an amount of money was paid to us. I showed everyone the money, telling them it was an unexpected bonus. I reminded them that we needed to take our equipment in London back to Nigeria. We took the equipment to London as part of our
luggage and the agreement was that we would also take them back to Nigeria as luggage. For this reason, I suggested that we should split the money into two, set aside one half as payment for instrument repairs and the other half to be shared among ourselves. They agreed with the suggestion.
However, they changed on the way and decided that we should share all the money and set nothing aside. Some of them even told me that they were going to spend a few days in London with their friends.
I said that was fine, but reminded them that we had been booked for a show the following week. With almost everyone wishing to remain in London, it was clear that nobody wanted to bring the instruments back to Nigeria. The instruments in London were our best instruments. I suggested that we should contribute money to bring down the instruments, but they refused and insisted that the money should be shared. We shared the money equally because we were on tour. In Nigeria, I got more than my band members because the band played with my instruments and used my vehicles to take them around. Despite their insistence on remaining in London, I still thought they were joking until they made me realize that they had their passports with them.
I left London in anger and returned home. The implication was that the
instruments remained in London and still do up till now. I bought new
instruments and decided to reorganize the band. That was why I renamed it King Sunny Ade and His New African Beats. Four months after, those who stayed back in London heard that I had reorganized the band and they started sending people to beg me to reabsorb them. Some sent their wives and I said if they wanted re-absorption, those in London should bring back our equipments. I also said that I wanted to know their reasons for seeking re-absorption. I ignored all the pleas on their behalf, explaining that I told them that the rumor they reacted to was unfounded. I added that I gave them the names of the agents and managers who got us to play in Japan
in case they wanted to confirm if television sets and video recorders should
have been given to the band.
For that reason, I said whoever wanted to come back must write an application, stating what exactly he wanted. The problem then, and now, is that when you go on tour, many people tell these boys that the terms of their engagement should be better like what happens overseas. With these sweet talks, the boys come to you to demand a change in their terms of employment. Some of them told me that they wanted new contracts and I said if that was the case, they should meet their managers to write a proposal to that effect. Alternatively, I asked them to draw up an agreement. One of them, Ademola Adepoju, told me that his white girlfriend who was a musician told him that she was under an hourly contract. I asked him if he wanted the agreement to begin while we were on tour or in Lagos. He said both. I advised him to go and sleep over it. He eventually brought a proposal to me in London. The drummer, Moses Akanbi, also said he wanted a new salary immediately we returned home.
When I bought new instruments, I invited professionals from overseas to help put them in shape. As much as I could, I tried to keep the matter away from the public. However, the matter got to the public domain and into the newspapers when people came to my shows and did not see them because those who returned with me rarely came for shows. Some of
them re-applied to the band. But their letters were more of letters of apology than applications. They were reabsorbed, but not on formal contracts, as we did not need any contracts because that would require so many terms that would remove the informality that created something close to a bond in a family.
-Culled from the book, KSA: My Life, My Music