Chief Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye MFR, known professionally as King Sunny Adé, is a Nigerian jùjú singer, songwriter and multi talented instrumentalist. Sunday Adegeye was born 22 September 1946 in Osogbo, Southwest Nigeria, to a royal family from Ondo and Akure, thus making him a Prince, what is known as an Omoba among 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 Sunday Adegeye’s cousin, Oba Adebiyi Adegboye Adesida Afunbiowo II, who later became king of Akure.
Sunny Ade left grammar school in Ondo City under the pretense of going to the University of Lagos. It was thus in Lagos that he began hismercurial musical career. However, Sunny Adé’s musical sound has evolved from the early days. His career began with Victor 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 Juju pioneer Tunde Nightingale and borrowed stylistic elements from his ‘So wa mbe’ style of juju.
He founded the King Sunny Ade Foundation, an organisation that includes a performing arts centre, a state of the art recording studio, and housing for young musicians.
He is today 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.
After achieving national success in Nigeria during the 1970s and founding his own independent label, he 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. KSA, another of his acronyms, currently serves as chairperson of the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria.
He is a visiting lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife and recipient of the Order of the Federal Republic.
Oj note is his 1970s and 1980s tour of America and Europe. His stage act was characterised by dexterous dance steps and mastery of the guitar. After more than a decade of resounding success in his native Nigeria, Sunny 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”.
His next album, Syncro System (1983), was very successful and it 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 alongside his rival act, Chief Ebenezer Obey for a musical comeback themed A Night 2 Remember with the Legends.
In 2017, he was appointed ambassador for the “Change Begins With Me” campaign by the Nigerian minister of Information, Lai Mohammed.
His was a fusion of sounds King
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. 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, his music constitutes a record of the oral tradition of his (Yoruba) people for posterity.
Sunny Adé introduced the pedal steel guitar to Nigerian pop music. He also introduced the use of synthesisers, clarinet, vibraphone and tenor guitar into the jùjú music repertoire such as dub and wah-wah guitar licks. Sunny Ade 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 use 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.
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 the 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. Sunny 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.
In the area of collaborations, 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 as well as Onyenka Owenu
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 recording of 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 nonprofit 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 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.
Sunny Adé has received numerous awards during his career. In November 2016, he became a recipient of the AFRIMA award and 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