By Ogbonna Amadi
King Sunny Ade (KSA) is an interviewerâ€™s delight. But in this encounter with Entertainment Editor, Ogbonna Amadi, KSA bares his life like never before.
Did you expect to be among the 20 Nigerian Living Legends? And the fact that youâ€™re among the top five?
First of all,Â I want to thank God Almighty for giving me the grace to be past of this history while Iâ€™m still alive. Only God knows how many musicians we have in this country today.
Iâ€™m the only musician who is picked as one of these distinguished Nigerians. That alone makes me happy. Whether I win or not, Iâ€™m happy that my name is listed among the living legends.
Itâ€™s a glorious thing to know that among 140 million Nigerians, I made that list and I think itâ€™s a pride to my fans all over the world. Itâ€™s also the biggest thing thatâ€™s happened to my family. With respect to all Nigerian musicians, it is something that I feel jealous about. Even though, I donâ€™t know the criteria for that selection, Iâ€™ve never influenced my selection in any way.
Youâ€™ve been voted twice for the Grammy Awards as one of the 100 musicians in the world andÂ virtually had won all the awards in this country. Which of these awards do you considers the most honourable in your career?
Iâ€™m still begging God to give me more room in my heart to take more awards because every single award means a lot to me. And I donâ€™t categorise them as the same. I take it that each of them comes at its own time. I love and respect every single award given to me. None of them is greater than the other.
Considering that KSA is now studied at the tertiary institutions as a course, what kind of person do you want people to see you?
Well, I donâ€™t even need to say it. Because if you look at all those awards, youâ€™ll be able to categorise the kind of man you want to study about.
From this angle,Â heâ€™s a legend; for someone else heâ€™s a doctor, and so on. It depends on the wayÂ you want to look at my person. But I am a Nigerian musician. There is need for us to study Nigerian music, including the hip- hop genre following the fact thatÂ Nigerian hip-hop is different from that of the Europeans.
What is the future of Juju music in Nigeria?
The future of Juju music is everlastingÂ because juju music is played alongside highlife. If you listen to most of the songs we have today. Youâ€™ll notice theyâ€™re all coming from the same root.Â Juju music is more or less the umbrella. So, itâ€™s always there.
If you listen to IK Dairo, youâ€™ll notice it is juju music. But itâ€™s quite different from the music known as Bakare. But both are juju music. My music and that of Orlando Owoh of blessed memory are all juju music. Even that of Fatai Rolling Dollar is juju music. So, juju music is very wide and has come to stay. Because it has been there before I wasÂ born, and I pray it continues to be there even when Iâ€™m gone.
You sang Molo (Mono). Which music is Molo?
Molo is outside the territory.
Was it a controversy or what?
Thereâ€™s nothing like controversy. With respect to foreign music, in those days,Â Indian music came into this country and sold even when we didnâ€™t know what they are talking about. Recently, Awilo took over the scene, even when Awilo himself came and performed in this country, people liked it.
Looking back some 15 to 20 years ago, youâ€™ll see the juju music in one corner, fuji music in another corner, highlife
Itâ€™s a pity that in Nigeria today, weâ€™re all self-made artistes and our music has become like a hotel. If you build a new hotel today, people will rush to the place, and the moment another one is built, the same people who rushed to the first one will move over to the new one.
Baba Frayo came and everybody started posing with him. And the moment Awilo came, some people crossed over to Awilo music. Thatâ€™s the way our people change with the trend.
One thing Iâ€™ve observed today is that live performances have died in this country. Instead, they prefer to mime, which was not part of the Nigerian style. Our people have lost sight of how and where to place our music.
Thatâ€™s why, sometimes, you see them nominating my name in various categories that is not juju music. But the unique thing is that the juju music is not fading away because if you attend any party in this country today that commands honour, youâ€™ll meet me.
Itâ€™s a pity that if you are invited to play in a concert alongside emerging artistes like 9ice, P-Square and others,Â theyâ€™ll not give me enough time to arrange my stage the way it should be. Theyâ€™ll expect me to do miming, which is not my way of music. So, Iâ€™ll not play it for them. The future of juju is everlasting.
Juju and highlife. Which is superior?
For me, highlife is the husband and juju music is the wife both of them go together. The difference is that juju music doesnâ€™t play horn but they both play guitars and drums. Highlife wasnâ€™t playing talking drum at a time until Chicago came. Highlife uses horn while juju music uses accordion. And now there is a keyboard. So, they are both interwoven.
So, which one is more superior?
Right now, weâ€™re doing a research on highlife music. And some people are saying that highlife music started in Nigeria and others say itâ€™s Ghana. But we want to know, if it started in Ghana, how long did it stay there before it got to Nigeria. Or if it started in Nigeria, how long did it stay here before it got to Ghana.
Which of the two did your ancestors play?
We are still working on that. You see people like Denge Eriwolede and others whom we believe started juju music are the ones that were lucky to be recorded. There could have been other ones before them. I intend to introduce this argumentÂ to my students and we all will do the research together.
Are you going to pay more attention to the practical or theoretical aspect of music while lecturing?
Both will be taken care of because you canâ€™t ask a person without a good voice training to come and start singing for you. So you must prepare them in both ways.
If you eventually bow out of the stage, who do you think will continue from you?
Iâ€™m not worried. I just believe that God will do his wonders the way he wants. Because I donâ€™t take this throne from any of my family members or anybody. I just found myself in this music and started playing it. Nobody taught me how to play any instruments.
So, God will raise people to continue this music. But one thing thatâ€™s lacking in my family is education. And I want to see to it that we get that one done, after which any of my children can take after me, if they so wish. I donâ€™t mind being their manager but education will come first.
What do you think is wrong with Nigerian music distributors?
I think the problem with them is that weâ€™ve had the same people in the business. If you take your music to Alaba and they donâ€™t like you,Â you may be forced to change your style of music. Change will only comeÂ when all of us decide to do away with the marketers. What stops anybody from buying music from anywhere?
First of all when I created Zigma Records during the time of African songs, I had Sonny Alade Records and others distributed and marketed by Emola Kassim and Okoroha. Itâ€™s not that Iâ€™m jumping from one place to another but sometimes, I might decide to change my marketer. If youâ€™ve handled my works for sometime, Iâ€™ would want to give it to someone else to evaluate the work.
But generally, I had to separate myself with these distributors because of their shakara, until I went into master disc. At a point, it came to a level of ganging up by the distributors, so I decided to patronize Zigma Records.
Zigma Records is still alive and itâ€™s located around Ikorodu Road managed by Femi Adeyemi. We have artistes from different genres of music, including hip pop. Of course you know that one of my son is a hip pop artiste (KSA junior).
How do you intend to handle people from other genres of music?
Weâ€™ll see to that because people are different and should be handled differently. My mother told me that a woman is born to be admired and taken care of and not to treat them anyhow because you think youâ€™re this or that.
One single woman represents the whole mothers of the world. Thereâ€™s an entrance in a woman that once a child comes out of that entrance, he/she will never go back to that entrance. In sexual aspects, it doesnâ€™t occur to me that women should be ill-treated because they are in love with you.
Have you ever been bold enough to say no to any woman?
No, youâ€™re not meant to say that because some will just want to be around you even, if itâ€™s for two minutes. You have to keep watching her until you understand her mission. Because, thereâ€™s little to what she can tell you. You must understand women very well, so that you donâ€™t hurt them. Because if you do, then you are in trouble.
As regards to women, one would have thought that you should be retired by now…..
God has a way of allowing it to come. But itâ€™s a matter of decision now. So Iâ€™ve decided to stop having children.
What if woman has a baby now and says youâ€™re the father?
Aaagh! I should know any woman I slept with.
Did you marry a new wife recently?
No, which new wife?
Iâ€™m talking about the honourable…
Sheâ€™s not a new wife.
How come she was in the background and nobody knew about here?
Thatâ€™s her own way of life, until she entered into politics.
What was she doing before you met her?
She was a trader.
How did she get into politics?
She got into politics because she felt she liked it. She used to work with Madam Olusanya, who is a clearing agent. And all of them decided to go into politics.
Am surprised that she came out from nowhere and won election?
When she said she wanted, I told her I wouldnâ€™t involve myself. But if she liked it, she could go ahead. Even my other wives who went into politics also did it because thatâ€™s what they wanted to do.
Did you give them your support?
You should allow your woman to do what she likes to do; if not theyâ€™ll be a burden on you. But I know Iâ€™m not a politician.
Sometimes, I ask myself what they see in you. Why do they keep coming?
I donâ€™t know because I ask myself same question sometimes and I donâ€™t get answers. I just believe thatâ€™s the way it has been written about me.
How many wives had your father?
He had three wives.
Itâ€™sÂ said that a man is supposed to be bigger than his father. Will you consider women as one way youâ€™re bigger than your father?
I donâ€™t think so. Itâ€™s more like a miracle to me because from when I was born till when I found my band, I never came close to a woman, until late 1969. Iâ€™m telling you the truth. I lost my virginity at about 22/23 years.
How did it happen?
By then, Iâ€™d started playing with Baba Sallah. Before then, I used to like say a particular woman was my friend. But between me and her, there was nothing like sex. Even those days, I didnâ€™t come across any woman that complained about sex. They just love to be around me.
And then as a young man, my dream was just to become somebody. Though I didnâ€™t know how but I didnâ€™t want to get married without having any steady income.
After I formed my band, we went to Epe to play one day, and a lady was just helping us out. She was so nice to us that every member of the band liked her. So, I started discussing with her and later invited her to Lagos.
She came and stayed with me for almost three weeks. That was the first time I fell in love.
Did you have sex with her within this period?
No. I didnâ€™t until after like three months when she came back again.
Did you marry her?
I donâ€™t know. May be, she just came to dis-virgin me and go. I didnâ€™t see her again until about 20 years ago.
Is she married?
I donâ€™t know.
Among all these women you talk about, did you ever get to wed any of them (pay bride price)?
Yes, I do. Anytime I meet a woman I want to marry, Iâ€™ll beg her not to get pregnant for me until we get to know each other. Iâ€™ll also tell her not to let me touch her if she knows sheâ€™ll get pregnant before the marriage proper. Because if you allow me to touch you and you get pregnant, Iâ€™ll not wed you. And it happened to one or two women.
Did you marry them?
No. But I keep my children.
Did any of them later have another child for you?
Yes, they did. But the difference is that weâ€™re not married.
Did you ever do any wedding that you had to print invitation on cards like your daughter did?
No, but I do naming ceremonies.
How do you cope with all these women?
I just thank God because they are the ones coping with me.Â They understand my kind of work and allow me do
Has their been any case where any of them went against you?
No. No single one of them has ever gone against me.
Abiola died and there was problem of too many children and sharing of his belongings. Have you made provisions for your children?
Letâ€™s just pray I donâ€™t die untimely. At least, one should have records of everything that belongs to one. So, if anybody comes outside that record, theyâ€™ll have themselves to blame.
What Iâ€™m saying is, even those whom you think are your children may not be. So, how do you know your children?
Everybody is lucky now and the DNA is there.
Are you saying that youâ€™ll include in your will that all your children must go through DNA?
Going through DNA is not even the ultimate, though it is good. Iâ€™m an Ondo man so I know all my children.
The king seems not to have a particular place of abode. Why do you prefer hotels?
Ah! That is the worst lie Iâ€™ve ever heard.
What is it that you tell your women when they come close that makes them love you?
My brother, the moment you tell your woman the truth from the beginning and she finally finds out that itâ€™s the
truth, sheâ€™ll love you.
Quote me anywhere. I donâ€™t love sex.Â Sex has never been the basis of any of my relationships. What I look out for is their etiquetes and any woman that has them will give you happiness. If it is possible today, Iâ€™ll take you to where I live in a duplex.
So even your family knows where to get you when they want?
Yes, I donâ€™t hide. I donâ€™t go to the hotels to meet women, no. I only come to hotels to do business and make money. In the past, Iâ€™ve had to do my management meetings at the boardroom with myÂ staff. And the meetings usually start around 9pm – 3am.
So, I started inviting the husbands of some of my staff members to join us. But now, I do my meetings in hotels. I bet you, when I take you to where I live, youâ€™ll shake my hands. Before, I used to stay in VGC but I had to leave because the place turned out to be like a corporate organisation. So, if you go looking for me there, you wonâ€™t find me.
Youâ€™ve said you didnâ€™t go to school and now KSA is being taught in the university. How are you going to cope?
Well, their lecturer will have to lecture all of us together and Iâ€™ll do my own part.
Have you at any point rated or scored your music?
You can imagine Iâ€™ve never done that. There was also a time I invited some to score my music and he couldnâ€™t. But abroad, when they play my music on the computer, the computer will score it. Going to the university now is like a different world for me. I have to begin studying the language, attitude behaviour and so on.
Going to school now will also help me to learn how to score my music on my own.
Do you think this new status will improve you and your music?
Yes, why not. It will give my music a new face. Iâ€™ll learn alongside the students. But Iâ€™ll also have to teach them because Iâ€™m older with plenty of experience.
I know youâ€™re a very busy man whoâ€™s always on the road. Do you think youâ€™ll have time to carry out this project at the university?
I see this project like building a house. When you decide to build a house, youâ€™ll begin to create time for the house. When they tell you itâ€™s time for the foundation or decking, youâ€™ll love to be there. So, Iâ€™ll create time for it.
In the 70s, you did a music that was nominated for a grammy but till date, you never got into that nomination again. What happened?
Itâ€™s because the record company where I did that music was in America. And the way they do things is quite different from what they do abroad. They canâ€™t allow any music recorded here to be nominated in the grammy.
Thatâ€™s why the grammy is within the Americans. And theyâ€™ll also have to understand the language in the music.
Are you the first Nigerian to have been nominated for a grammy award?
You were able to take Nigerian music to that level?
How did it make you feel?
The music industry seems to be booming now and our people have left live performances for miming. Do you think weâ€™re on the right track?
Those days when we were there, we were lucky to have Polygram, Polydor, CDS, Yehman. We used to have world standard studios here in this country.
Now, all these things are gone. So, those who are strong enough go to South Africa and other places to do their recording. Itâ€™s a pity that today, miming has taken over. For the new generation musicians, miming is not good but for us, we are beetles that cannot be beaten.
The real music today can only be found in the church where they still play live music. Even the highlife music which people think is gone is still in the reservoir.
Have you ever done a family re-union whereÂ gathered all your children together?
I used to do that when they were young. But now that theyâ€™re grown ups, not all of them are here in Nigeria. Even the ones in this country are in various states of the federation.
We are hoping to do that again this year,Â probably in December or early next year. For now, I go round to see them, all of them. Even when many of my children were here, they preferred to go see my mother during holidays.
Were you also close to your mother?
Yes. I had to be close to her. Because she had to see us through all alone as my father died when I was young?
How many of you did she have?
According to my parents,Â they had 11 children but only four of us survived and weâ€™re remaining just two now, my sister and me.
What about mama?
Mama is dead now.
When you started have one, two, three wives, how did mama take it?
At that time, she wasnâ€™t seeing any of them as my wife. She just saw them as my girlfriends.
My first marriage didnâ€™t work out and the moment you left one woman for another, it becomes a problem.
In my first and second marriages, me and the women found it difficult to understand each other then. But now that weâ€™re matured itâ€™s easier. Later, I decided to go and marry from my home town and that one too turned out to be the same.
If you have to live your life again, will you marry as many wives as you do now?
I wouldnâ€™t. I didnâ€™t really like to marry many wives. I did all that because I took it wrongly from the beginning. If
I had decided to manage one and try to make it work, I wouldnâ€™t have had many wives. In those days, there used to be this tradition of wedding before you impregnate a woman, which I kept sacredly. Marrying too many wives is one of the mistakes I made in lifeThe reason why I donâ€™t like discussing my marital life is because I think itâ€™s different from a normal marital life.