By Femi Akintunde-Johnson
Four days to his 76th birth anniversary (22 September, 2022), we caused to be published a rehash of an interview this reporter had with Chief Sunday Anthony Iṣọla Adeniyi Adegẹye (more popularly known as King Sunny Ade – aka KSA) on the eve of his 53rd birthday, at the dawn of this millennium (in 1999). He was open, disarming and thoughtful – virtues he flaunts till this day. Imbued with princely debonair, it is no wonder two of his names have “Ade” (Yoruba word for crown), thereby augmenting the majesty of his musical bloodline. Well, this is how we described him in a 2011 book, “Footprints: Interventions in Nigerian Entertainment”: ‘Crowned the juju music king (45) years ago… [in a 1977 well-advertised poll by The Entertainer, a tabloid in the stable of the defunct Ibadan-based Sketch newspapers]; this royalty has refused to abdicate, be dethroned or allow himself to stroll into oblivion; even as times, seasons and stars come and go… KSA abandoned home and college at 17 in pursuit of destiny. He joined Federal Rhythm Dandies owned by Moses Adejumo Olaiya (alias Baba Sala). Five years preceding that decision, little Sunny had jammed with two top Osogbo bands led by Sunday Ariyo and Idowu Owoeye.’
‘However, “the man” emerged at 19 when he “released” his own band. Barely two years after, in 1967, KSA debuted with “Alaanu L’Oluwa” to a heart-breaking (disastrous) record sales. But a year later, the king made a chart-breaking return with “Challenge Cup”.
‘With countless and incisive innovations, KSA has planted a gigantic tree in the forest of music, which shows to all that his fame and talent could only have come from one source: God. Today, we recognise KSA as a lodestar in a millennium of incredible music advancement.”
And now the king still reigns…at 76. This is the concluding part of what we started in the last edition…:
“How are you coping with the embarrassment and pains of the bitter court case with your former wife, Falilat?
Well, actually I thank my God that I am getting out of that mess now which I pray that I won’t see anything like that anymore. I really don’t want to go into that now… because that is wiping out…
You see, when you are young… that is what I am telling my children and any other young musician. When you are young, you have to take your time before you get married, though you have to believe that whenever you go into the world you will see millions of women. If you rush too much you will have problems. You don’t need to be slow and you don’t need to be fast, just take your time and when you are ready just decide and believe that that particular person you are marrying is good.
Just go ahead. There is no musician that has not done it in Nigeria, but I pray that the next generation from the millennium will not go into that. From the beginning, I had a rough time in my marital life… Unfortunately, I have kids who I respect a lot. Those kids had to pull me back and say we have to correct it. So by doing that you have to swallow a lot of things and endure a lot of things until you cannot endure anymore, which your kids will sanction and say this time my mother has gone too far… they’ll say it is not me that they will be annoyed with.
What really went wrong in the Island Record deal?
You see, there is nothing that went wrong other than that I took my decision simply because I had my country in mind. If I want to be popular around the whole world, yes, they can make me. God gives me the power and ability to do that, but my music called Juju music from Nigeria will get lost. So in order to hold my juju music, that is why we parted ways.
What happened was they told me they wanted to change my music to what the Western world would like. So, I said okay. Let’s have a producer, this is my multi track, the one I did for you. Let them mix it, let them put anything into that. So, they went with that for a couple of weeks. When they came back, I couldn’t recognise my music anymore. So I said, gentlemen, it is not that it’s bad but I couldn’t continue with that. They said I didn’t want to sell and if I wanted them to sell I should allow them to change. They didn’t pick my option and I didn’t pick their option. So, we went our separate ways. But today, the same juju music has been nominated again in 1998 (Grammys). Eventually, I pray that it will win one year. That is why we are working hard now in order to win something. When we win that, we can play it back.
Can a musician be a successful businessman?
I would say yes. If you know what you are doing and at the same time, God directs or sends good managers to you. To become a businessman is just very simple. A manager that knows what he is doing, that can put your vision to reality… the man who knows the business you are doing or the business you are involved in. The best thing you can do is to surround yourself first with the best and when you are asking questions, they don’t ask you questions. For instance, around me I am having a recording studio, which I know about; I’m having a label to record, which I know about. within that I can distribute, which I know about. Then, I’m having a band I’m playing with, which I know about. I have a nightclub, which I know about. So, all these come with good managers.
The other time, I went to University of Lagos privately to do Business Administration. That is what I have in the organisation; when they are talking business, at least if I didn’t know 100%, I will know 75. So, when I am throwing the questions back at them… even when they are doing the accounting, the internal auditors come, my questions will be who has this, who has that, why do you do this, why that? I want to know under 24 hours. But, if care is not taken, for the love of money, you fight and then you don’t play again. Or you find if you don’t do little business you have to balance your brain because sometimes in the business world you can easily have what is called brain fatigue, under one hour. When they give you a report on the business, you won’t be yourself again. That will affect your band. Sometimes when you are on the stage you will be thinking, (and) singing something else (general laughter).
Thank you very much, and we wish you so much success.
Thank you very much too. God bless you too. I use this opportunity to thank you very much for the way you promote Nigerian art, though people may not see it that way since they are often hit because they believe that you are a critic. You may be a musician, I don’t know, but sometimes you criticize a particular music constructively and that’s why we reckon with you; that when we buy the paper and look at the entertainment page, okay, what has he done this week? What happened this week?”