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King Sunny Ade compares himself to ‘Solomon’ in the Bible

 
Veteran juju musician, Sunday Adegeye,
popularly known as King Sunny Ade, clocked 69 recently. He shares some
of his life experiences in this interview with Punch.

You celebrated your last two birthdays elaborately, why did you decide to have a low key 69th birthday?
I thank God that I clocked 69 this year. I
decided to celebrate my 69th birthday in a low key manner because I am
preparing for my 70th birthday. The same people – my fans and friends
and my patrons – will still be the same people I will invite for the
celebration. Even now, people have started telling me that, by the grace
of God, they will celebrate with me during my 70th birthday. More so,
God just gave us a radio station and we have to work on it and set up
everything. Then again, we were supposed to go on tour of the US but we
couldn’t get our visas. I got mine but the other members of my band
couldn’t get theirs.
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Why were your band men denied visas since you are a known personality?
It doesn’t have anything to do with being
a known personality. There are processes involved. We weren’t asking
for visiting visa, we were going there to work. It wasn’t as if we were
denied. There were a lot of technicalities involved and by the time they
were done with the processing, the show we were going for had come and
gone. I have a good relationship with the US embassy. At times, they
even ask me whether I am travelling.
You are almost 70 and yet you don’t want to slow down, don’t you think it is high time you retired?
When people are still in love with you
and your music is there and I have to feed a lot of people starting from
my family, organisation and band members, there wouldn’t be any reason
for me to slow down. But then, I would say I have slowed down a bit.
Before, we used to have shows every day of the week. But now, we
stylishly reject some and say we are engaged. Then again, if I really
slow down, I am afraid of what may happen to me. My mother didn’t slow
down even when she clocked 100. If you tried to tell her to slow down,
she would tell you that you wanted her dead.
Do you still miss your mother?
I miss her every day. I saw her
remembrance advertisement in the newspapers the other day and I couldn’t
hold back my tears. I was just visualising her. We normally mark her
remembrance at home. We did it this year but I wouldn’t know how the
ceremony became so elaborate. We the family members were upstairs to
pray and by the time we came down, the whole place was filled up with
people. It turned out to be a festival.
What do you really miss about her?
I miss her prayers and then the advice
she used to give me. She had some certain attitudes that I miss as well.
She never allowed me to bear grudges against anybody. She always wanted
me to forgive everybody who had hurt me. I learnt that from her. I make
sure that people always forgive one another.
You said you can’t slow down
because you have so many mouths to feed; but as a successful artiste,
don’t you have enough investment to sit back and relax?
No matter how much you make, you have to
spend the money. Apart from the money I am making, people are happy with
my music. One of the late legends, IK Dairo, once told me that only a
stupid musician would not want to play on a Christmas Day. How can
people want you and you say you are relaxing? If you continue to relax,
you will be forgotten. I still enjoy what I do; I have a passion for
music. It is not just for the money. When I am on the stage, I am on
another level.
When it comes to dancing and stagecraft, age does not seem to have affected that…
I love to dance. Few days ago, at an
event, so many people were in awe. They couldn’t believe I could still
dance like that. They had to ask me how I could still be this energetic.
But I am known for this.
You collaborated with D’banj some time ago; do we see you doing such with other younger artistes?
Yes. I have so many of them on the list.
It is just that I have been so busy and I keep apologising to them. I
have the likes of Darey, Waje, MI on the list. They want to be part of
me and I want to be part of them as well. K Peace that won Nigeria Idols
is also on the list. By the grace of God, I will build a good studio
and we can do some work together.
Are there moments you wish you had just married one wife instead of having so many women and children in your life?
I would say there are times I may have
wished so but I don’t think I have regretted having the women in my
life. When I came to Lagos, I had told my people that I was in school in
Lagos. How would I tell them I wanted to get married? If I had to tell
them such, they would have wanted to come over to Lagos and they would
have known my true status. But when things went well, I couldn’t regret
anything. I believe God wanted it that way. I tried my best not to have
so many women. They even love me more than I love them. If it were now, I
would have said may be they loved me because of money or material
things. But that is not so. Now, they don’t even care about my wealth,
they just treat me as their loved husband.
Was your mother happy with you that you married so many wives?
Definitely! She didn’t have anything
against it. She said as long as they would live with me peacefully, and
then there was no problem. She said she didn’t know if I was the son of
Solomon who had many wives. She said it was between me and my God. Even
now, you will not even know who my wife is and who is not or who my
biological kids are because we all bear the same name, even my brothers
and their family members, we all bear the same name, Adegeye.
But you must have a favourite among your wives…
I wouldn’t call any one my ‘favourite.’ I
would rather describe what I do as ‘etiquette’ and fear of God. One has
to be careful and pray for wisdom in matters like that. That is how I
operate.
You even went as far as marrying an American, was it love or you just wanted to marry a foreigner?
It was love. By the way, the one you saw
is not the only one. I have kids in America. There was love on one side,
respect on another side and then business on the other side. I just
don’t say, ‘I love you, I want to marry you.’ You have to know me. All
my wives work hard. They want to copy me. They don’t want to stand at
the door and beg for money.
There was a time your kids used to join you on the stage; we don’t see such again, what happened?
By law, children shouldn’t be at night
shows; they could come during the day. But then, most of the kids you
are talking about are now in school. They have to study. When they are
out of the university, if they want me to be their manager, I would
agree and I would put them through. They have to study because I believe
so much in education since I wasn’t able to get much during my time.
However, I have been given doctorate degrees by so many universities in
Nigeria. I always tell them they have to beat me.
Despite being regarded as a legend, you have managed to remain humble, how do you do it?
It is just God’s grace. When I look at
what is happening in the world, I have to reflect. Where are you going
that you have to be in a rush? The whole world is like a stage; do your
best and leave the rest. That is the way I look at myself. I have seen
people who were so rich but ended up wearing rags and I have seen people
who wore rags but turned out to be millionaires eventually. I even sang
about this. You need to respect people because you don’t know who would
help you eventually. A superstar is one side; Sunday Adegeye is on
another side. Sunday carries the crown of the superstar on his head. But
that crown is there. But then, uneasy lies the head that wears the
crown. You have to be careful with the crown you wear. If you don’t
polish it, people will do it for you. You just have to be careful so
that people will not refer to you as a yesterday man.
When you built a church
inside your country home in Ondo two years ago, people thought you were
about toeing the path of Evangelist Ebenezer Obey.
A church is a church. You don’t build a
church because you want to become a pastor. Even if you are a pastor and
you were able to afford to build a church, it wouldn’t be meant for
just you but for the whole world. I was just lucky that the church is in
my compound and it is not just for my family members alone but for
everybody. If I am being called to be a pastor, then I will become one.
We have even built a bigger church and we transferred the children to
the old one. I have built churches in so many places and I am not even a
member of those churches. I just felt like building for God. I want
people to know God and get closer to Him.
Are there times you still remember those days when things were so difficult?
I remember those days every day. I always
have to be careful before I take any decision so that what happened
before will not repeat itself. The moment you even asked the question,
my mind had gone to those days. It is just as if I have played back the
video. I am a boss now; I may not have known I would get to this stage.
It is God’s grace. You have to be very careful when you are at the top. I
always tell my band members to be careful. Don’t ever think nobody
could occupy your position in life. When you are in a good position, you
just have to be cautious. If you think nobody is watching you, your
shadow is watching you.
What is your staying power in the industry?
Let me answer your question this way, KSA is Nigeria’s only enduring musical brand after Fela.
Somehow, we talk of marketing brands, I
feel a sense of loss when you don’t extend this to musical brands. In
music, the modern world has pitched established names to their brands of
music, so that you easily catch up like when you mention Fela, what
comes to your mind is his Afrobeat which was Nigeria’s major music
export. You don’t need to mention Fela Anikulapo Kuti, just mention
Fela.
In my case, many Nigerian musicians used
to go on musical tours to so many countries without much focus on our
brands of music until 1982 when I broke the jinx with major globally
acknowledged concerts in Japan alongside world renowned musicians. It is
you, I mean THE PUNCH (Mr. Ladi Ayodeji) who coined the name KSA from
King Sunny Ade, explaining to the world the establishment of another
major Nigerian musical export.
Since then, KSA became synonymous with my
brand of music which is seen till today in the world as Nigeria’s
cultural music export.
This brand is established solidly over
the last years all over the world, apart from Nigeria, in such a way
that global events think of KSA when they want to consider African or
Nigerian music.
So, the answer is KSA represents enduring
musical brand, Nigeria’s enduring cultural music. This is part of what
we are going to celebrate next year. Like many successful marketing
brands, the KSA brand has faced many challenges, but remains a legacy
because of its enduring music which is ordained by God.
Talking about music, don’t you think juju is taking the back seat now?
Lai Lai (Never)! Juju can never
be relegated to the background. It has come to stay and it is for life.
All the genres of music you are listening to come from juju. Juju is
like a reservoir. Juju went to church to pray and every other music is
now tapping the anointing. All the music now have element of juju.
But then, after the legends
that came before you and then you and your contemporaries and maybe some
others that came after you, there is no other juju music personality in
recent times, is that not a sign that the genre will soon fizzle out?
I don’t agree. We have plenty of them.
You may not see them because all of us have this problem of combating
piracy and not having good promoters. The music industry is suffering
and smiling. A lot of people who can play and who wish to play juju
music are worried because of pirates. So many people do not want to
invest because of pirates. It is just one internet download and the
music is everywhere. I even had to appoint a distributor to help me
market my albums. But distributors are also complaining because pirates
don’t allow them to market the albums. But then, there is no way you
will go for a party that you will not hear juju music. It is just that
we have a general problem in the industry.
Are you planning to release an album to mark your 70th birthday?
I have plans and I pray God will let it
come to pass. It is not just because of celebrating my 70th birthday. As
a musician, I always think of what I can do to sustain my career and my
legacy. I always sit down with my record companies and we discuss. We
are just begging the government to look into the area of piracy so that
musicians could do more when they know their works are protected. I have
plans.
Maybe part of the plan would be seeing you and Ebenezer Obey on the stage once again…
We have done that. If God wants us to do
it again, we would. We have yet to release the video of the one we did
before. There is tendency to modify it or redo it. It is just what the
world wants to see. My mother would always advise people not to talk so
much of what they intend to do before they do it so that people don’t
copy them.
You earlier mentioned a radio station; do you now have licence to operate a radio station?
Yes! We just got our licence. We now have
a frequency, 106.5 FM. It is called Music and Culture (M and C FM). We
just want to protect our culture. We got licence from NBC. We have
distinguished Nigerians on the board and we have veteran broadcasters; I
am just lucky to have those people.
You said you lied to your
family that you were in school in Lagos back then. If any of your
children does that, will you be angry?
I used to preach to them that when I did
it back then, I was a lone ranger. Now, they have their mothers and
father around. So they don’t have any reason to lie. It is even
difficult for them to try to lie now. It is just for the parents to pick
up the phone and google or call the school. Back then, I was just an
explorer. I wanted to see what I could do. An explorer could go on a
journey and become a farmer or whatever. That was what I did. I just had
to do what I did because I needed to do something. Now, all my children
are in school. I don’t have any regret. I am attached to so many
universities. I would have registered in school some time ago but one of
my children beat me to it. The day I wanted to register at the National
Open University was the day she brought her form. But then, I have not
lost hope. I would still join them one day.
In some of your old
recordings, you used to chant incantations which made some people think
you patronised traditionalists to fortify yourself against enemies, how
true is this?
It is absolutely not true. When you are
looking for fame, you will look into areas where you think you can make
an impact. If I had done such, I wouldn’t be a Christian or go to
church. But that is not even the issue. During that time, I got the
incantations from Yoruba stories and proverbs and I turned them into
music. In my home town in Ondo, they celebrate Ogun festival ever year.
It is a big event. I just felt that people would buy my albums if I sang
about it. The same thing I did with football. I knew a lot of people
were fans of Stationery Stores, so I released a song for them too. I
didn’t have any reason to patronise herbalists to get any form of
fortification. I am a Christian and my parents were Christians.
But did any of them approach you to get powers from them?
What kind of power? I just believe in God. That’s why I love God.
Was it deliberate that you didn’t align with any political party during the last election?
From the very beginning, even when I was
in school, I was always afraid to align with any politician or political
group. When it comes to campaign, which usually goes violent, I try not
to be a part of it. That said, I would always tell you that I am a
voter. When it is time to vote, I go to the polls and I cast my vote.
After that, I stay back.
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Kemisola Ade

Kemisola Adeyemi is the Assistant Editor of Kemi Filani News. She loves to write and write and write and hopes to own a publishing firm someday! Email: [email protected]

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