King Sunny Ade @ 70: I Never Knew I’d Make It This Big in Music


Foremost juju musician, Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye, popularly known as King Sunny Ade (KSA), has seen and done it all. He even said there is nothing more for him to achieve in life. This cannot be farther from the truth.
With huge fame and fortune, several albums, uncountable stage performances both home and abroad, numerous collaborations with local and foreign artists like Stevie Wonder, Manu Dibango, Youssou N’Dour and Salif Keita and some Hollywood appearances, no wonder Sunny Ade is regarded as one of the greatest musicians of all time. In this interview, the king of  world beats, who turns 70 on September 22, opens up on his life, music and plans for his birthday. Enjoy it.

At 70, you have achieved a lot but is there any other thing you think you have not achieved in life?
I thank God for His mercies for making me what I am today. With all sincerity, I will say I have it all; there is nothing I have not achieved to date.

You’ve achieved it all?

But what has fame taken away from you?
Nothing and it’s because I don’t isolate myself from friends and I believe in my old friends more than the new ones.

A foremost music producer, Laolu Akins, once accused juju musicians, especially the younger ones, of laziness. Do you agree with him?
No, because things are getting complicated virtually on daily basis. For example, it’s not easy to form a company now. To form a company, you need registration, office, and furniture among other things. So, forming a band is not an easy task. If I may ask, do you know how much it costs to buy a guitar not to talk of other musical equipment?

Are you saying the economy has affected a lot of artistes?
It’s not only the economy but also piracy. How will you invest in what you cannot benefit from? An average guitar, I mean a good one, costs over N100, 000. Aside from that, piracy is killing us.

But what is the job of COSSON and MCSN. Is it not to fight piracy among other things?
Those are collecting societies.

But you are a member of MCSN?
Oh yes.

Okay, why is COSSON fighting MCSN?
I don’t want to comment on any case that is in court. I believe all these will be resolved soon. Mind you, there will still be other collecting societies. Mark my words, more are coming. It’s a thing that is happening all over the world and Nigeria will not be an exception; one collecting society cannot kill the other.

The song, Wait for Me, that you did with Onyeka Onwenu some years ago came with a lot of controversies. Do you have anything to say about it?
Wait For Me was a strategy. It was a different track we wanted to launch, a song that will guide children against unwanted pregnancy. The project was organized by an American university and they preferred a female and a male artiste to perform together.  They said Onyeka and Sunny Ade should do it together, and we did it but the whole thing was a gimmick and at the end of the day, people helped the gimmick to work. Yes, it worked simply, because people believed we were actually getting married. Before then, we’ve had several stage performances together, but that was quite a different thing.

Did you have crush on Onyeka?
No! She’s my sister and a colleague. I could say she’s a good girl but now we’ve grown. Recently, we played together and it was a good show. It made me remember the day I played with Wizkid.

How do you see Nigerian music of today?
First of all, Wizkid is one of the musicians in this country that I will do collaboration with anytime. I have 9ice, Art Alade and so many of them that I have on my table to do collaboration with and my door is always open to any artiste that loves to do collaboration with me, as long as you know what you want to do with me.
Comparing the music of the olden days to that of today, certainly, yester year’s music has come to stay because it’s the father of music. In my generation, most families were reluctant to encourage their children to venture into music. Today, some parents would even call on me saying, “Sunny, this boy wants to do music can you put him through?” This never happened during our own time. But today, music is seen and done everywhere; they see music like the sugar they put into tea. If you see my shows, you will see that I do full band and not computer, not that I can’t use computer. But the new generation is playing music for the guys that put them on stage. Nigerian music is anything that goes well with Nigerians. For me, music is what you can use your hands to play and not what you dictate to the computer. There are so many instruments you can play with your hands that computer cannot do. This is the generation that likes to see things done the way of computer. So, good luck to them.

Last year, a 30-year-old case between you and a record company ended and you were awarded the right to your master tapes and also some cash compensation. Has the company complied with the judgment and especially regarding the right to your master tapes?  
I won the case by God’s grace, but they are yet to comply. However, I don’t want to say more on this for now, because I know by God’s grace, everything will be put in shape.

What do you think is responsible for artistes not staying relevant for a long time?
Let me tell you something, I won’t condemn Nigerian music anywhere; I may condemn any other music but not Nigerian music. I believe good music lasts forever, if the lyrics of a song are meaningful, they will make an artiste last long. Music is always there for those who are playing it genuinely.

You have once been nominated for a Grammy. Do you hope to release another album that will attract Grammy nomination this year?
Talking about Grammy, I’m lucky to be one of the nominated singers in Nigeria and Femi Kuti too. When Femi Kuti came with his nomination document, I was one of those that went to congratulate him. But we are not the ones organizing the Grammy. Yes, I do hope to make an album to mark my 70th birthday.

At 70, you still dazzle on stage. From where do you get your energy?
When I listen to music and see people dancing to my music, I’m always inspired. Good music is always my energizer. Sometimes after the show, I may feel the stress, but my love for my job is the greatest source of my energy.

Which is your favourite among your songs?
All my songs are my favourites. You know why? It’s because they came in different styles.

At 70, are you planning to marry a younger wife?
Taking a new wife now? I don’t know, but it’s not on my agenda ‎now. If you see some of my daughters and even granddaughters, you will marvel. That’s why I don’t allow them to go out with me. Whenever they go out with me, people think they are my wives. They would greet them, saying ‘hello madam’, how are you, madam?’, thinking they are my wives. And I would have to tell them that they are my daughters and not my wives. On whether I’m going to marry another wife, well, I am not God, but I am not planning to take a new wife at all. How do I explain it to my grand children?

Some years back, you tried to pull veteran comedian, Baba Sala back into music. How do you think that is possible?
Baba Sala happens to be my boss. Back then when I was with his band, I played percussion. Baba himself played guitar and drums. We used to play like I.K Dairo. But later, he decided to have a theatre group. He was the one who told me to go into music. Baba Sala himself encouraged me into singing. I never knew I could make it this big in music.

Is there any fear you’ve been grappling with from childhood till date?
When you say fear, it’s the fear that I don’t know when God will say ‘stop’, but at the same time, I don’t harbour any fear, because God does His own thing in His own way.

What’s the secret behind the relationship between you and Admiral Dele Abiodun?
We are friends and will continue to be friends by God’s grace. Any show I have and I know I might not be able to attend, he performs on my behalf, and I bless God for his loyalty.

What are the plans outlined to celebrate your 70th birthday?
One September 21, I would be having a gospel music night and the arrangement is completed already.  It’s holding at Ondo. Why we are having it that way is because somebody said he would like to sing a birthday song for me at exactly 12am. Then on September 22, by God’s grace, the usual thing we normally do, the family prayer, will hold.
The children’s party will start from there. The next day, we will visit motherless babies’ homes, prisons and other charitable causes. September 24 ‎is the day my children set aside to celebrate their father. On Wednesday September 27, there will be a lecture organised by Obafemi Awolowo University in collaboration with  the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi. After that, we will go back to the Ooni’s palace where we will have the celebration of King Sunny Ade’s birthday fully. The celebration continues on October 8 in South Africa.
Then we will have a book launch and a concert by a host of musicians in Ibadan. Also, part of the celebration is the concept of 70 children playing different instruments to celebrate King Sunny Ade at 70. I have witnessed the rehearsals, so I know it will be very, very entertaining.

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