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Artist Profiles: King Sunny Ade

King Sunny Ade


King Sunny Ade was born Sunday Adeniyi in the Ondo State of western Nigeria in 1946, the son of a Methodist minister. Although his father was a church organist and his mother sang in the church choir, his parents rejected his musical aspirations. He was, after all, Nigerian royalty — a prince in fact — and a career in law seemed more appropriate. Sunny Ade started with percussion. At the age of seven, he would follow his mother to church and he liked to be in between those people playing percussion. From there, he started touching the drums.

Sunny Ade began his musical career when he dropped out of school, at the age of 17, first joining the band of a traveling musical comedy troupe. Ade later moved to Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, where he joined a highlife (Nigerian dance music) band. Inspired by the music of Nigerian musician I.K. Dairo and American artists like James Brown, Brook Benton and Jim Reeves, Sunny Ade joined the Rhythm Dandies, led by Moses Olaiya (later known as Baba Sala). As his interest in his own Yoruban culture grew, however, Sunny Ade joined Juju bands. King Sunny was influenced by the legendary Tunde Nightingale (early Juju pioneer) and borrowed stylistic elements from Nightingale’s ‘So wa mbe’ style of Juju.

Until civil war broke out in Nigeria in the 1960s, highlife was king, but as the band leaders, many of whom were from eastern Nigeria, headed home to join their Ibo compatriots, many stages were left to be filled. Juju ascended and Sunny Ade along with it.

In 1966, Ade created his own group called the Green Spots Band and from then on refused to take orders. His first big hit, in 1967, was in honor of the local soccer team, the Stationery Stores Football Club. “Challenge Cup” sold over half a million copies, more than any Juju record had done before. Two and three best-selling albums have followed every year since, until, by 1976, Ade was chosen as best musician in Nigeria and called the King of Juju by his fans. It is a name he has held on to ever since.

After eight years in which the the Green Spots Band recorded 12 LPs for the Nigerian Africa Song label, Ade decided to form his own record company in 1974. At that time he changed the name of his band to the African Beats.

King Sunny Ade and The African Beats tour with a line-up of 20-30 members. They play a spacey, jamming sort of Juju, characterized by tight vocal harmonies, intricate guitar work, backed by traditional talking drums, percussion instruments, and even adding the unusual pedal steel guitar and accordion.

Even though he has released more than 100 records in Nigeria, the King first became known in the United States after a critically acclaimed three-record run on Island Records in the 1980s. Since then, he and his African Beats have become perhaps the leading lights in bringing African pop to the West.


King Sunny Ade


Sunny Ade is known to many Nigerians as the Chairman, a title he earned due to his leading in numerous and diverse businesses. King Sunny has invested the revenues earned as a music superstar into participation in a multitude of companies, including an oil firm, a mining company, a nightclub, a film and video production house, record labels for African artists and a few other enterprises.

About 70% of Sunny Ade’s business is about music. The Chairman estimates that over 700 people work for him in one way or another, with 200 of them directly employed in music. Sunny Ade also chairs the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria, an organization whose mandate is to halt the uncontrolled record piracy that plagues Africa, as well as to protect the intellectual property and international copyrights of his fellow musicians.

In his continuing efforts to support African music, Sunny has also established the King Sunny Ade Foundation, which the Chairman founded with Nigerian civic and business leaders. The Foundation is situated on a large parcel of land donated by the Lagos State Government. It includes a performing arts center, a fully equipped recording studio and housing for young performers and musicians, and offers financial assistance to both the children of dead musicians as well to elderly musicians who can no longer perform.



Selected Discography

* Juju Music (Mango, 1982)

* Live at Montreux (PolyGram, 1982)

* Synchro System (Mango, 1983)

* Vintage (King Sunny Ade Nigeria, 1984)

* Aura (Mango, 1984)

* Explosion (Sar, 1985)

* Togetherness (Sar, 1985)

* Gratitude (Sar, 1985)

* The Truth (Sar, 1985)

* The Return of the Juju King (Mercury, 1988)

* Live Live Ju Ju (Rykodisc, 1988)

* Live at the Hollywood Palace (Sound Wave, 1992)

* E Dide (Get Up) (Mesa, 1995)

* Odu (Mesa/Atlantic, 1998)

* Seven Degrees North (Mesa/Bluemoon, 2000)

* Synchro Series (IndigeDisc, 2003)

Anthologies and compilations

* Best of the Classic Years (Shanachie)
* Gems from the Classic Years 1967-1974 (Shanachie)


King Sunny Adé, Orlando Julius and Rich Medina at SummerStage 2016 in New York

African music stars King Sunny Adé and Orlando Julius and The Afro Soundz, together with DJ Rich Medina, are set to perform on Sunday, July 3 at SummerStage in Central Park, Manhattan. Admission is free.

King Sunny Adé

King Sunny Adé is one of the most popular artists in Nigeria. He has been performing to sold-out audiences around the world for more than 35 years. King Sunny Ade and his full band (with dancers) will tour over 30 cities across the United States and Canada – with the expectation of sold-out shows in every city. The artist has not toured North America since 2009. His discography includes Juju Music, Best of the Classic Years, Synchro System/Aura, Gems From the Classic Years (1967-1974), Odu, Baba Mo Tunde, and Live Live Juju.

Orlando Julius and The Afro Soundz

Renowned Nigerian musician, Orlando Julius, plays classic Afrobeat with a psychedelic twist. In the 1960s, Julius was fusing traditional African sounds and rhythms with American pop, soul, and R&B.

In addition to performing and recording in his native Nigeria, he spent many years in the United States working on collaborations with Lamont Dozier, the Crusaders, and Hugh Masekela.

His 1966 recording, Super Afro Soul, made him a national celebrity in Nigeria and even went so far as to influence music in the United States. The record’s dramatic, highly melodic incorporation of soul, pop, and funk was very much ahead of its time, and some say that Super Afro Soul helped shape the funk movement that swept over the United States in subsequent years.

Rich Medina

Popular DJ Rich Medina takes audiences on a sonic journey through house, afrobeat, funk and soul.

Sunday, July 3
Doors open at 2:00 p.m. / Show at 3:00 p.m.


Nigeria’s King Sunny Ade to headline New York’s Great African Ball

King Sunny Ade

New York City, USA – Graviton African Arts Network and African Hypertext, by special arrangement with Yoruba juju icon King Sunny Ade & His African Beats – one of Africa’s most storied dance bands – have announced the return of New York’s Great African Ball on Friday, April 29 at Roseland Ballroom. Doors will open at 9 p.m., with the performance to run – in the style to which patrons of this unique New York event have become accustomed in the six previous editions of the Ball – from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.The Great African Ball is a sister event – and a capstone – to the renowned New York African Film Festival, whose screenings will run from April 20 through April 28 this year, and whose year-round mission is to share the vision of African media-makers with audiences in the United States and throughout the world. For schedules and information, call 212-352-1720 or visit www.africanfilmny.org or www.filmlinc.com (The Film Society of Lincoln Center).

On the foundation of his personal sound and charismatic aura, King Sunny Ade remains a towering figure in his country and in the Nigerian diaspora. After decades of steady success in Africa, Europe and the Far East, his rootedness in the storytelling, moralizing and praise-singing of juju remains the bedrock of his artistic personality, and his long-awaited return to New York for his first appearance at The Great African Ball promises to be special. (King Sunny Ade’s
last New York performance had been scheduled for September 12, 2001, at S.O.B.’s nightclub in SoHo, a short walk from the World Trade Center towers, but obviously that appearance could not have taken place. So Ade has not played in New York since 1999.)

The first Great African Ball, conceived by Senegal’s Youssou N’Dour, was held at the Hammerstein Ballroom on April 17, 1999 to a packed house of 3,500 patrons drawn from the ranks of New York City’s ever-growing African immigrant communities, “world music” fans and A-list showbiz personalities. (Stevie Wonder made a surprise appearance in the crowd and insisted on joining N’Dour onstage. He was but one of many dignitaries in the audience.) The event was a six-hour celebration and a first. Not merely a “concert”, this was a full Senegalese “ball” – or “soirée dansante” – aimed to reflect the kind of unhinged performances N’Dour and his band give in their own club in Dakar, the Senegalese capital. (Needless to say, the performances that King Sunny Ade gives in Nigeria reflect a kindred spirit of enjoyment and wholesome abandon.) In the ensuing five years (four times at Hammerstein and once at Roseland), The Great African Ball has fulfilled the promise N’Dour made to his New York fans to make The Great African Ball an annual event.

With Youssou N’Dour passing the baton this year to his peer and good friend King Sunny Ade, once again an unmistakable “African feeling” promises to envelope the house for another marathon night of some serious social dancing.

King Sunny Ade will share the stage of this year’s Ball with his Igbo countryman, highlife luminary Prince Obi Osadebe, in a truly historic meeting of Yoruba and Igbo musical legends never before seen – not only in America but even in Nigeria.

The women, men, fashions, food, fragrances and verve of Lagos – and of Africa – will all be on offer, mingling with New York’s own homegrown African vibes in a genuinely special “Naija-style” evening, with the crowd as Ade’s co-star.

Tickets for The Great African Ball ($40 in advance, $50 on the day of the show) are available at all TicketMaster outlets (www.ticketmaster.com), at the Irving Plaza box office (17 Irving Place – 212-777-6800), and from selected merchants
in New York City’s several main African immigrant neighborhoods.

Roseland Ballroom is located at 239 West 52nd St., (West of Broadway, between Broadway & 8th Ave.) .


Vintage Recordings by Legendary King Sunny Ade

King Sunny Ade – Synchro Series
New York, NY – IndigeDisc returns on April 22nd with the release of Synchro Series by the legendary King Sunny Ade.

Ade and his African Beats have thrilled audiences worldwide for over two decades with the scintillating West African sounds known as Juju music. However, while releasing several stateside albums over the years, recorded specifically for the Western market, his indigenous Nigerian recordings, released concurrently in Africa, have never before been available in the United States.

Synchro Series now makes two of those original albums from Ade’s creative peak available for the first time. Taking the listener on a journey back to a landmark period for African music, Synchro Series features pristine remastering, rare and early photos of Sunny Ade, and three sets of detailed, highly informed liner notes by IndigeDisc founder and longtime Ade manager, Andy Frankel; music critic for Nigeria’s prestigious Guardian newspaper, Benson Idonije; and respected World Music journalist J. Poet.