Says he belongs to 79 social clubs

By AYO ONIKOYI, entertainment editor

On September 22, 2016, King Sunny Ade will be joining the league of the septuagenarians, 70, and it is not by an accident of fate that he will not be having a quiet party with his family alone. By virtue of his status and his monumental achievements, it is inevitable that such landmarks in life be hijacked by many who have had their lives touched by the joy and talent this Ondo Prince is blessed with.

As Henry Longfellow once said “Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, and, departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time”. These words aptly encapsulate what King Sunny Ade means to the music world, not only in Nigeria but all over the world. According to the Wikipedia, he is described as “a Nigerian musician, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and a pioneer of modern world music. He has been classed as one of the most influential musicians of all time.”

On Wednesday the Lagos media community had a parley with the King at the Lagos Airport Hotel, where the Juju music crusader highlighted series of activities lined up to mark his70th birthday. Looking as radiant as ever, and exuding that latent energy that has captivated both young and old over five decades, he told us his 70th birthday would be different from any he had ever had. Usually, the King celebrates his birthdays over a course of one week but his coming 70th birthday, according to him, which began on September 1, 2016, will run till the end of the year, December 31, 2016, climaxing with a grand finale concert that will have African greats like Youssuf N’dour and many others on stage.

Programme for the birthday

King Sunny Ade and his band. Credit: George Elijah Otumu
King Sunny Ade and his band. Credit: George Elijah Otumu

Having the celebration last for four whole months is not the King’s design but demands arising from his many associations over the years. “I am a member of 79 social clubs and you can imagine that each and every one of them wants to be part of the celebration by organising something for me”, he said with a wry smile and reeled out list of activities lined up for the landmark occasion.

“ I started my birthday celebration with a prayer from Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye on the 1st of September. On the 21st of September, we will be having in Ondo, the Gospel Night. Then on the 23rd of September, we will be visiting the Motherless Baby Homes and the next day will be a day where my family members will celebrate me. We will also have a special lecture in Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, with the Oni of Ife in attendance. After the lecture, we will go back to Ooni’s palace with many distinguished royalties in attendance. The celebration will also be taken to South Africa with a book launch .

There will be a concert in Ibadan. We will also have 70 children performing for KSA. PMAN, Ondo chapter, Western states and National are also coming together to organise something very fascinating but I don’t know the details now. Here, PMAN, Ondo chapter will be playing the chief host. The grand finale will also attract foreign musicians into Nigeria for this celebration. Many organisations, clubs and associations have also set aside a day to celebrate me. All together, we plan to have a five-month celebration.”, he enthused.

After the preambles of rolling out the programme for the birthday celebration, the King then fielded questions from newsmen who were itching to have a go at him. As anxious as they were, the music maestro, with his air of cordiality satisfied almost all of their curiosities.

His story and Baba Sala

It is impossible to tell the story of King Sunny Ade without having the name of Moses Olaiya, aka Baba Sala popping up.“Let me say that Baba Sala is my boss and he will continue to be my boss for life,” he began. “ I never planned to be a band leader but he gave me the opportunity for the talent to develop. I was a little boy, playing percussion in his band. He was a musician, playing guitar, Iya Ilu (talking drum) and accordion. At that time, we were playing I.K. Dairo kind of music and I was the youngest . When he formed the drama side he asked me to go to the drama group in order to see to the music side of it.

So, I was in charge of music for his drama sector. Along the line I started playing Konga, Shekere and other instruments. After a while he transferred me back to the band. It was through Baba Sala and his friend, Chief Tunde Amuwo that I became a band leader. Chief Tunde Amuwo had some instruments in his house and invited me to come and take charge. I told him I could not come because I didn’t have any intention of becoming a band leader. To me, I saw it as biting the finger that fed me. But it was Baba Sala himself who told me ‘Sunday, this is an opportunity for you,go and try. If after nine months to a year you cannot do it, come back here, I am your father, I will take you back’. Up till now, I am yet to go back”,he joked. “Sincerely, I never knew my music would make it to this level.

“ I bought the guitar on my own and nobody thought me. I do my dancing as I know and then whatever thing I’m doing now I do it on my own. I believe it’s only God that thought me everything and that’s why up till now I still give Baba Sala that respect because for anybody to say go and try, I’ve never heard it before. I say to my members too, that if you feel like forming a band, go and try, if it doesn’t work let me know. Maybe I’m lucky on my own’,he added.

On his affair with Onyeka Onwenu

KSA debunked ever having any private affair with the songstress, categorically, stating he never had a crush on her.

“Onyeka and myself came together to do a song like a campaign. The “’If You Love Me” was a track to curb unwanted pregnancies among the youths back then. It was a campaign organised by Houston University in America where we needed a boy and a girl to sing against it. And that brought Onyeka Onwenu and KSA coming together. People became confused. However, myself and Onyeka had done some songs together before then. But many were anxious to know if we were dating each other. Onyeka Owenu is my good sister and I don’t have a crush on her. We are both musicians and thereby colleagues”, he stated.

On the new generation of singers

King Sunny Ade.  Credit: George Elijah Otumu
King Sunny Ade.
Credit: George Elijah Otumu

“I have done collaboration with Wizkid and some other young musicians. You people call it ”collabo” but I don’t like using such slangs. There are many things I really need to work on. I intend working more with the young musicians. My door is open to as many who want me to work with me provided the musician knows what he wants to do with me and I also know what I want to do with him or her. Many families at a time were not comfortable with their children listening to some music or even going into music. But that has changed over time. Today, we have parents calling on me to mentor and train their children who want to go into music. Music flows everywhere. I still perform with my bands and that doesn’t mean I can’t play with the computer (DJs). I am not against this, if it suits Nigerians. My stand is that, there is a huge difference between performing life and doing computer things. There are things the computer can’t do.

On his last tour of the US

The King said his last tour of the US lasted for two and half months, saying he embarked on the tour to prove a point.

“I didn’t go on tour two years ago because we were told at the American Embassy that they had technical problems. Other bands all over the world were also affected. It was even on the Embassy’s website back then. However, we were given Visa this year and we had one big mission: to redeem our name. This was necessary because there were speculations that I was dead . But my fans were very happy seeing me alive, hale and hearty. I know I am not supposed to blow my own trumpet but at times, one needs to adjust it. I can say it categorically that every show we did was a huge success.”

On winning the lawsuit for his master tape

Recently, a Federal High Court in Lagos awarded N500 million to the world beat maestro, ‎ for copyright infringement. Recall that KSA had dragged a record manufacturing company, African Songs and its subsidiary Take Your Choice Stores, to court some years back over issues bothering on intellectual theft. The court awarded the sum against the defendants for infringing on his works, with additional N5 million for prosecuting the suit.‎

According to the music legend, the court ordered the companies to return the master tape of the original musical works to him. He said before the master tape could be returned, the companies’ Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Chief Bolarinwa Abioro, died.

His words: “I won that case and they said I should be compensated with 505 million Naira but they are yet to do that. I won’t want to say much on that. It is either I am given more than 505million Naira or they return the master tape. My master tape is even more important to me than the money”, he said.

On his energy on stage

The name ‘KSA’ is synonymous with electrifying dance steps, strong throaty vocals and high octane performances. Even when nudging 70, the maestro recently toured 36 states in the US in a space of ten weeks. One wonders where he draws the energy from, and surprisingly, the King himself seems to be dumbfounded.

“I’m always so happy when I see people around. If I have to do what I want, a lot of thoughts will be running through my mind to do what I know best. I don’t smoke and I don’t drink but when I hear music, not only my music, I dance and then the energy just comes naturally. So, I will say that the energy comes from God and I love what I do most.

On his favourites among the new generation

king Sunny Ade
king Sunny Ade

“Let me say all of them are my favourites because they have different styles. You cannot compare them to one and another. The music of Wizkid is quite different from Korede Bello’s, and same goes for others.”

On new album

“Yes, we are going to have another album this year to celebrate the birthday. We are working on so many, maybe not only one, maybe two or three, we just have to do something by God’s grace”.

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