Primary Instrument: Guitar
King Sunny Ade - guitar, vocals
For more than three decades, King Sunny Ade and his African Beats have been thrilling audiences worldwide with their extraordinary music. The Nigerian singer, guitarist, bandleader, and entrepreneur is the acknowledged master of juju, a cross-cultural sound that sends listeners on a remarkable journey into the heart of one of Africa's most vital cultures. His music draws from the many idioms and forms of the Yoruba language, and imbues it with a modern sense of spirituality, politics and honor.
Juju is a thrilling hybrid of Western pop and traditional African music that incorporates electric guitars and synthesizers with such indigenous instruments as talking drums. Lyrically, juju is rooted in the Yoruba tradition of conveying broad social and cultural messages through archetypal proverbs and parables. A remarkably convivial music, juju has at its heart a dynamic and interactive nature that incorporates a plenitude of grooves, call-and-response choruses and polyrhythmic breaks. Multiple lead guitars, harmonic counter-melodies, and shimmering waves of multi-layered percussion blend with sonic surprises - such as reggae and dub sound system effects or the lilting pedal steel guitars of American country & western - that traverse the boundaries of culture and genre.
King Sunny began his extensive career as a member of Moses Olaiya's Federal Rhythm Dandies then later became the bandleader with the Green Spots. Though he has released more than 100 records in Nigeria, King Sunny first became known in the U.S. after his first international album, on Island Records “Juju Music.” (’82) The album's lead track, Jafunmi, became an instant classic, a juju anthem that Adé still plays in every show. Two more Island albums appeared, “Synchro System,” (‘83) and “Aura.” (‘84). When Island then wanted to make more drastic changes to Adé's sound, he balked, and left the label. For the next decade, Adé kept touring, but recorded no new music for the international market. Two live releases appeared, notably “Live Live Juju.” (Rykodisc 1988)
Adé signed with Mesa in 1995, and produced three excellent recordings, including “E Dide Get Up.” (’95) The follow up, “Odu,” (‘98) recorded at Dockside Studios in Maurice, Lousianna, was equally strong, and with “Seven Degrees North,” (2000) recorded at Blue Jay Studio in Carlyle, Massachusetts, it is abundantly clear that Adé's career, music, and band were now on solid footing.
There are several current releases out on the African Pop label as “Dr. Sehendemi,” and “Omo Wunmi,” both from 2003. There are of course many reissues available from his earlier periods some are under the title of “The Guitar Master,” and are available in several volumes.
In January 2002, he completed a four year term as President of The Performing Musicians Assoc. of Nigeria (the national musicians union) Still performing weekly at a wide variety of parties and events, both public and private, King Sunny Adé intends to use his newly recaptured free time to focus on his music.
In his continuing efforts to support African music, Sunny has also established the King Sunny Ade Foundation, which the Chairman founded with local civic and business leaders. The Foundation, which is situated on five hectares of land donated by the Lagos State Government, includes a performing arts center, a fully-equipped recording studio and housing for young performers and musicians, and offers financial assistance to both the children of dead musicians as well to elderly musicians who can no longer perform.
Whatever you do in life, you have to find time to enjoy yourself, King Sunny explains, because no matter what you do, no matter how much money you have, no matter how good a person you may be, tomorrow somebody else will come and you are going to be part of history. So what I preach is what you need to do is to do good, so you leave a legacy behind you. If you truly love your neighbor as you love yourself, that will continue when you're gone.