King Sunny Adé, also known as Chief Sunday Adeniyi Adegeye, is a Nigerian music icon and one of the pioneers of juju music.
With a career spanning over five decades, Sunny Adé has become a household name in Nigeria and beyond, known for his infectious blend of electric guitars, synthesizers, and multi-layered percussion.
He is regarded as one of the first African pop musicians to gain international success and has been called one of the most influential musicians of all time.
In this article, we will explore the life and career of King Sunny Adé, highlighting his early years, rise to fame, and lasting impact on the Nigerian music industry.
Early life of King Sunny Ade
King Sunny Adé, born on 22nd September 1946, is a Nigerian jùjú musician, multi-instrumentalist, actor, and songwriter.
He was born to a royal family in Ondo, Nigeria, to Samuel Adeniyi Adegeye and Maria Adegeye.
Adé’s music style is a blend of electric guitars, synthesizers, and multi-layered percussion, delivered in an infectious rhythm.
Adé formed his own backing band in 1967, which later became known as his African Beats.
He achieved national success in Nigeria in the 1970s and established his independent label.
Later, in 1982, he signed with Island Records and gained international success with the release of his albums Juju Music (1982) and Synchro System (1983).
Synchro System also earned him a Grammy nomination, a first for a Nigerian artist. His 1998 album, Odu, also earned him a Grammy nomination.
Adé was born to a Nigerian royal family from Ondo and Akure, making him an Omoba of the Yoruba people.
His father was a church organist, while his mother, Maria Adegeye, was a trader.
Adé’s mother was a member of the Adesida dynasty, and her father, Oba Adesida I, ruled Akure for 60 years.
Adé’s cousin, Oba Adebiyi Adegboye Adesida Afunbiowo II, also served as king of Akure. Adé currently serves as the chairperson of the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria.
King Sunny Ade music has been highly influential, and he is considered one of the first African pop musicians to achieve international success.
King Sunny Ade, known as KSA, is a renowned musician whose influence spans generations and continents.
He has made significant contributions to the Afro-pop music genre, which has gained immense popularity both locally and internationally.
Over the course of his career, KSA has collaborated with some of the biggest names in the music industry, including Stevie Wonder, Manu Dibango, Wasiu Alabi Pasuma, and Wizkid, among others.
His musical journey began in Lagos after leaving grammar school in Ondo City under the guise of attending the University of Lagos.
King Sunny Ade musical sound has undergone several transformations, starting with Moses Olaiya’s Federal Rhythm Dandies, a highlife band, and then forming his own band, The Green Spots, in 1967.
He was inspired by the Juju pioneer Tunde Nightingale and borrowed stylistic elements from his “So wa mbe” style of juju.
In addition to his music career, KSA founded the King Sunny Ade Foundation, an organization that provides support for young musicians, including a performing arts center, a recording studio, and housing.
He is also a visiting lecturer at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and a recipient of the Order of the Federal Republic.
King Sunny Ade made history as the first Nigerian ever to be nominated for the Grammys.
In 1982, King Sunny Ade’s music became a global phenomenon after more than ten years of success in Nigeria.
His album Juju Music and the accompanying tour were widely acclaimed by critics, though not necessarily by consumers.
Critics praised Ade’s musicianship, particularly his guitar skills, and his live shows were known for their length and dexterity.
Ade’s next album, Syncro System, was equally successful and earned him his first Grammy nomination in the ethnic/traditional folk recording category, making him the first Nigerian ever to receive such a nomination.
In 2017, Ade announced his return to the stage with a musical comeback titled “A Night 2 Remember with the Legends,” featuring his rival act, Ebenezer Obey.
That same year, he was appointed ambassador for the Nigerian “Change Begins With Me” campaign by the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed.
Ade’s music is a fusion of sounds that includes traditional Yoruba instruments such as the talking drum, as well as the pedal steel guitar, synthesizers, and clarinet.
His use of these instruments was not an attempt to innovate but rather a substitute for traditional instruments that were difficult to find or impractical for touring.
Ade’s sound is distinct, with a phalanx of electric guitars that function like a percussion section and talking drums that sound like a Greek chorus.
His music also includes poetic lyrics and praise singing, as well as components of Juju, a traditional African belief system, such as the casting of spells.
Sunny Adé rose to global fame in the early 80s with his Juju Music, Synchro System, and Aura albums under Island Records.
The Synchro System album earned him his first Grammy nomination.
He made his American debut stage performance with his African Beats to an enthusiastic audience in 1983.
In 1990, he dropped his Authority album, which included tracks such as Alase Laiye Alase Lorun, Majo Ronyinronyin, KSA Ma Wo Won Loye, and Yio Pe Leti Omi, among others.
Following that, Sunny Adé released the captivating African songs collection, E Dide (Get Up), in 1995, which paved the way for his 1998 Odu album, a collection of ancient Nigerian songs.
The Odu album was loaded with irresistible hits like Aiye Nreti Eleya Mi, Easy Motion Tourist, Kiti Kiti, Natuba, Ibi Won Ri O, Eri Okan (Conscience), and it earned him his second Grammy nomination.
In 2000, he released Seven Degrees North, an album filled with hit songs like Appreciation, Samba, Suku Suku Bam Bam, Odigan O Ni Se Barber, Merciful God, and more.
Apart from music, Sunny Adé has also featured in several movies in Nollywood and beyond.
In addition to his music career, Sunny Ade is also known for his successful business ventures.
He has invested his wealth in various companies, including an oil company, a mining company, a film and video production company, a nightclub, a public relations firm, and a record label that promotes African artists.
With around 700 employees, his companies have created jobs for many people.
Apart from his business ventures, Sunny Ade is also known for his luxurious lifestyle.
He has a garage filled with exotic cars, including a Rolls Royce, which made him the first Nigerian musician to own one.
In 2016, he auctioned off a famous guitar painting as part of his birthday celebration, which sold for an impressive N52 million in just 15 minutes.
Despite his wealth and success, Sunny Ade is a polygamist with an undisclosed number of wives and children.
While his net worth is reported to be around $55 million, it is difficult to independently verify this information.
King Sunny Ade is an accomplished musician who has received numerous awards and accolades for his contributions to the music industry.
He has been nominated twice for the prestigious Grammy Awards and has received the King of World Music award by International Reggae and the World Music Award.
In 2009, King Sunny Ade was inducted into the Afro-pop Hall of Fame at the Brooklyn African Festival in the United States.
The following year, he was appointed a visiting professor of music at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
In recognition of his contributions to the African music scene, he received the AFRIMA award in 2016 and was later inducted into the Hard Rock Cafe hall of fame.
Aside from his musical achievements, King Sunny Ade is also the chairperson of the Musical Copyright Society of Nigeria, which aims to protect the rights of musicians in Nigeria.
Furthermore, he established the King Sunny Ade Foundation, which includes a performing arts centre, a cutting-edge recording studio, and housing for young musicians and performers on a five-acre plot of land donated by the Lagos state government.
The foundation aims to provide young Nigerian musicians with the resources and support they need to develop their talent and make a career in the music industry.
King Sunny Ade’s philanthropic efforts have had a significant impact on the Nigerian music scene, providing opportunities for aspiring musicians and promoting the rich cultural heritage of Nigeria through music.
His dedication to the music industry and commitment to supporting young talent have earned him the respect and admiration of music lovers and musicians alike.
Some of his songs
The best of classic years
Seven degrees north
The truth “Otito”
Mo Ti Mo
Ma Jaiye Oni
Let them say
Mo Ti Kole Min Sori Apata
Oluwa lo yan mi
Odu oteyi yato
E dide e mujo
Gbe Kini ohun de
Eje Nlo Gba Ara Mi
In conclusion, King Sunny Ade is a legendary Nigerian musician who has made a significant impact on the African music scene and beyond.
With his unique style of Juju music, he has won numerous awards and accolades, including two Grammy nominations, the King of World Music award, and induction into several halls of fame.
He has also used his wealth to establish various businesses and a foundation that supports young musicians and performers.
His contributions to the music industry and his philanthropic efforts have solidified his place as a cultural icon in Nigeria and beyond.