Why Sunny Ade Will Forever Be King of Music, By Odolaye Aremu

Ẹ Ṣù Bìrìbìrì Kẹ Bòmí ó!

The year was 1974. We only moved to Ibadan a mere year earlier. I remember our first apartment at 15, Faderera Street in the Elewura area of Challenge, Ibadan. Small, but lovely. I still remember the love I felt there and the one I tragically lost. That’s where I met my first bosom friend – Isreal Ogungbemi. I lost him to a stupid game of dare. He dove into a deep well behind the house because we wanted to know who was the toughest. He never made it out. He’s gone. I am here. May his soul rest on in peace.

I was already aware of Sunny Ade from years earlier. My dad and his much older sister were Osogbo buddies. I was equally aware of his court palava with the late Chief Bolarinwa Abioro. So it was with great joy that we all sat around that old Grundig Hi-fi Stereo to play his first record after his court victory. It was the hit album “Ẹ Kilọ F’ọmọdẹ.”

I believe Ẹ Kilọ F’ọmọdẹ was the biggest release that year in Ibadan. You just couldn’t avoid it. Everyone that had a beef with someone else had it. For instead of the aggrieved parties to start lobbying verbal jabs at their adversaries, Sunny gladly did it for them, melodiously and for free too!

I think by far, in my not too modest opinion that that album remains one of Sunny’s best! The damn thing ought to be archived!

However “Ẹ Ṣù Biribiri,” the flip side was and still my best. The guitar riffs in four spatial chords that announced the song and the smooth welcome of the bass by Sarafa Bello is still something I marvel over. Even back then I had a huge sense that Sunny was going to be huge. For his uncanny understanding of melody stood him apart from the rest. And that in part perhaps gave him the confidence to take on Bolarinwa Abioro.

Asides the music itself, the imageries he deployed in full, on that track are just too powerful! His voice was confident and compelling as he paid homage to the phantom forces behind the scene:

“à mọ́ mo ti ṣ’èbà Èdùmàrè Ọba tó láyé, mo ti seba gbogbo àgbà tí nbẹ niwaju mi o dede ọmọ àwo ó, mo ṣ’èbà àwọn ìyá mi ọ̀pàké ọ̀làké, aké ruru a là ruru…”

a discerning listener with that very powerful line would surmise that Sunny, then at just 28 – a damn young man was nobody’s Mugun. He evidently just blew out one of the biggest force in the industry at the time in court.

“… nítorí ọ̀wọ̀ ikókó la fí n’wọ ‘gi. Ọ̀wọ̀ òrìṣà la fí n’wọ àfín. Ẹnikan kii bá idà lọ́run eṣinṣin…ẹnikan kii bá ṣẹkẹ́ṣẹkẹ̀ pàdé lẹsẹ eṣinṣin láyé nbi…ó ṣèè’wọ̀!”

The bass just kept on in a funky, smooth, bluesy roll.

“…àní won lọ para wọn pọ ó jàre ó, wọn ní wón fẹ́ẹ́ bá t’ẹyẹ agbe jẹ, wọn ṣe’ṣi wọn lọ t’ìyẹ́ ẹyẹ agbe b’aró…”

And his voice: cool, calm, young, assured, commanding, confident with an unmistakable tinge of victory mixed with relief, without missing a beat kept on delivering those powerful, poetic imageries – we, the Yorubas beautifully refer to as Ọfọ̀, or Àyájọ́ or simply – incantations. Of course the specific message the young music star was sending out was direct as it was coded: “Go ahead and mess with me at your peril!”

The rhythm section stay steadily on point. Alhaji Tiamiyu in the background was doing his thing. The lone question I may have for the King peradventure we meet is: “What was the mood like in the studio the day the album was recorded?”

“…wọn ní kí n má ṣu s’épo, mo ṣu sepo wọn o bá mi wí rárá. Wọn ní kí nma tọ s’aala mo tọ̀ s’aala wọn o bá mi wí rárá…”

My most favorite line ever!

Well…this is one of the reasons the King is forever the King! It is not by chance he is the King of Juju. He is indeed the Chairman!

Ẹ sù bìrìbìrì kẹ bòmí ò ó!

this is not an authoritative account by the way

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