A crowned King of Juju music, King Sunny Ade veered into music as an adventurous youth at a time when musicians and entertainers were generally perceived by the society as never do wells.
Typical of kids of good parental background and family pride, as a Prince, KSA’s early ambition in life was to become a medical doctor. That dream has since been consigned to history by his monumental feat in music.
Born in Ondo, his father’s hometown, on Sunday 22nd September, 1946, to Samuel Adeniyi Adegeye, a Prince from the Adegeye royal family in Ondo town, who was then caretaker at the African Church and Princess Mariam Adegeye, his mother a petty trader from another royal family in Akure, the Ondo State capital, KSA was later taken to Osogbo at the age of five, to avert a prophetic revelation proclaiming great danger to his life.
Most regrettably, however, his father died a year later and the mother was saddled with the burden of bringing up the children from her petty trade business.
Having to live the rest of his life without the able support and guidance of his dear father strengthened KSA’s resolve to make it in life.
“It was like I saw myself as the pillar of the family very early in life, particularly in 1954, when I was being registered into school” The famed musician started his academic pursuit at the Methodist African School, Osogbo at the age of eight years.
He, thereafter, proceeded to St. Charles Grammar School, Osogbo where he was swept his feet by the sweet sensation of music and acting in class four, though his scholastic record showed that he was a very inquisitive and brilliant student.
His activities in music and drama were more outstanding. While in primary three, he won an award from the school for dressing and mimicking a woman in a school drama.
Most remarkable was his unprecedented feat in dancing and unflinching love for playing musical instruments.
As a member of the school’s Boys Brigade, KSA played the drum, and was known to have joined and played with Sunday Ariyo’s band and Idowu Owoeye’s band in Osogbo ever before leaving primary School.
As a student of St. Charles Grammar School, KSA was already a full time member of Idowu Owoeye’s band.
The band’s outing in Abeokuta, on the occasion of the coronation of Oba Gbadebo as the new Alake of Egba land marked the turning point in KSA’s life; becoming a professional musician.
“We did not make enough money at the occasion; we became stranded in Abeokuta for more than three weeks.
The lorry we hired left us in the town since we were unable to pay him. It was a terrible experience. During this period, one of us, the late brother Ayo Oyeleye told me his intention to go to Lagos and join Moses Olaiya’s band. He actually lured me to follow him”
KSA left for Lagos to join Moses Olaiya’s group with the hope of raising sufficient money to return to his family at Osogbo, but that was never to be, as the lure of music and comfort from Moses Olaiya, the leader of the group, turned the table around.
“I had no option but to join him, more for the way he treated me like his own son than any initial intention to stay in Lagos” and to cover the track from his worried and unsuspecting family back home, who had become apprehensive about his whereabouts, and his new resolve to play music, KSA sent words across that he had been enrolled in University of Lagos.
Oh! What a calculated lie.
Of course, the rest is history today; it was like the young KSA was quick to realize early enough that he was destined to be great musician.
He knew what he was set out to achieve in music and went straight for it. As an apprentice musician in Moses Olaiya’s band, KSA had indeed exploited every opportunity and a great deal of access to instruments.
“With little or virtually no pastime, I had music as the only thing in my head. I thought of music every time. I got hooked, completely hooked to music”
One remarkable feat recorded by the young music prodigy, at that time was teaching himself to play the guitar.
His dexterity in playing guitar has, over the years, earned him the nickname, master guitarist. It is not surprising, therefore, that he was rated the 68th guitarist in the world, among both living and dead world famous guitarists by the 1996 edition of Mojo Magazine, published in Great Britain.
His young age not withstanding, KSA soon rose to become leader of Moses Olaiya’s band. His very rich talent eventually sold him out to Chief Tunde Amuwo, the leader of the High Society Band and a close friend of Moses Olaiya for a greater stake in music.
He was granted an initial mandate to assemble his own group within three months. And with the musical instrument made available to him by his sponsor, Chief Tunde Amuwo, KSA set out as the band leader of Sunny Adex and his High Society Band, in 1966.
The band later metamorphosed to Sunny Ade and his Green Spot band and then, Sunny Ade and his Golden Mercury of Africa and finally to King Sunny Ade and his African Beat.
Forming a band was much easier for Sunny Ade than creating a music identity for the band as a Juju musician. According to him, “at that time, you were not playing music if you were not playing I.K Dairo’s style. Even my boss, Moses Olaiya was playing the style. This vogue was on when I started my band.
So with the I.K. Dairo style, it was necessary that someone come out with something different. This was a difficult task for me because I also loved and adorned I.K. Dairo.
It was also a difficult task to come out with an identity. About five great artistes like Ayinde Bakare, Dele Ojo, Nightingale, Ojoge Daniel in addition to I.K. Dairo were solidly on ground with their identities, which their unique styles had created for them” Determined to also carve a niche for himself, through fashioning a music style and identity for his band, KSA came out with a modified Tunde Nightingale style of Juju.
He achieved this feat through the application of the Open guitar chord system which a musician friend from Ibadan taught him to play when he started his band.
“With the open chord system I could play anything I wanted to create out of my imagination, imaginations that must fit into accustomed music standard and new rhythms. The open chord system gave me a
lead ahead of others, who immediately took to the system. Since it was every sense my creation, I was jumping from one rhythm to the other, on the system, to stay ahead of them”.
With that, KSA hit the music market with his debut effort entitled Ala anu lolulwa in 1967.
The album recorded huge commercial flop, as it sold only 13 copies. But that was not sufficient to discourage the young Sunny Ade from forging ahead.
His follow up album in 1968 titled “The Challenge cup” catapulted him to public limelight and recognition. The album was made in honor of the Stationery Stores Football Club, for winning the African Challenge cup for the country for the first time. It was released under the African songs record label owned and managed by Chief Bolarinwa Abioro, a genius in Juju music administration.
A creative and highly innovative musician, KSA remained a key factor in the revolution of Juju music and its projection to global scale.
“I started with the amplification of the talking drums, Omele, Iya ilu, the electric drums, keyboard, Hawaii guitar and even the agogo, (gong), which is now the in thing among Juju and Fuji musicians. I, re-ordered the positioning style for more stagecraft because musicians used to sit to play.
I raised the standard of Juju to its present internationally acceptable level by procuring world acclaimed modern instruments and introduce stage setting among others” In popularizing Juju music, KSA went on his first overseas tour in 1970.
His breakthrough in the international music arena actually came in 1983 when he was signed on by Island records, after the death of the legendary reggae star, Bob Nesta Marley.
Thereafter, performing at big international music concerts became a pastime for KSA while organizing an
elaborate world tour to promote his act and music was like an annual ritual. He could well be counted as one of the most traveled musicians in the world.
Married with children, King Sunny Ade believes women played a great role in influencing the popularity of his music. His life long aspiration is to build a music village in Ondo, his home town.
A legendary legend, King Sunny Ade is a man of the people.