King Sunny Ade Biography and Profile, Sunday Adeniyi Bio

King Sunny Ade Early Life.

Born Sunday Adeniyi on 22 September 1946, King Sunny Ade has been perfecting his Nigerian juju, a vocal-rich blend of percussion, guitars, keyboards and choreographed dance. By now, he’s achieved legendary status: Some know him as the African Bob Marley. The son of a church organist, Ade knew from a young age that music was his life’s passion. He left grammar school in the 1960s, started a band and hasn’t looked back since. He’s played in many groups over the years and founded his own label; as a recording artist, he’s put out over more than 100 singles and LPs, and earned two Grammy nominations in the process.

King Sunny Ade hit the height of his international popularity in the late ’80s, but he remains extremely popular in Nigeria. With intertwining guitar lines, traditional talking drums and introspective lyrics, he’s in the midst of a comeback in the U.S. and Europe. He was recently inducted into the Afropop Hall of Fame, and just brought part of his large ensemble along for a tour of North America.

King Sunny Ade Biography and Profile

King Sunny Ade is a Nigerian musician, singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and a pioneer of modern world music was born on 22 September 1946. Sunny Ade was deemed ‘King’ because he is his country’s No. 1 popular musician. Juju music, a lilting, rhythmic, modern version of traditional African sounds is King Sunny’s offering. Juju music is an interesting mix of the hard strains of today’s rock and the softer, subtler rhythms of traditional African melodies. Many people confuse juju music with reggae, but they’re not the same.

Although Ade has produced dozens of albums in the African musical hotbed of Lagos, Nigeria, he is known in Europe and North America for a relatively few but extremely influential albums. And his Island Records releases of the early ‘80s played a significant role in bringing world beat music into mainstream Western pop.

The music on those albums expanded the horizons of juju, an evocative blending of Yoruba drumming, call-and-response vocals, layered guitar lines and interjected talking drums that had been evolving in Nigeria since the ‘50s. In Ade’s hands, the irresistible rhythms and catchy melodies swept Nigerian pop music, then moved onto the international stage.

But when a decade went by without a studio recording by Ade released in the United States, some observers wondered whether Ade’s focus on his many entertainment business ventures in Nigeria had irretrievably removed him from the world music scene.

Not so. “E Dide,” just released on Mesa Records, makes one wonder why he waited so long to come back. All the familiar Ade elements are present, with the addition of female back-up singers and percussionists. (Ade, who plans to tour the United States in the spring, insists that his band is the first juju ensemble to allocate such roles to women). The rolling rhythms, the extraordinary sounds of the talking drums driving in and around the smoothly harmonized vocals, the sudden, oddly out-of-context zing of the steel guitar typify world beat at its mesmerizing best.

This is not roots music. One of the artful aspects of Ade’s music, in fact, is his willingness, even eagerness, to incorporate anything that he feels will enhance the emotional effect of his musical messages of peace, love and respect.

Sunny Ade, in an interview with the Monitor, explained that his songs draw directly from the traditional folk songs of his tribe, the Yoruba.

“I will write the lyrics, then we all sit down and construct the music.” The result is a complex and highly textured modern sound – one that has already influenced the work of many popular musicians, including David Bowie and the Talking Heads.

When asked how he sustains such long performances, Sunny Ade replied, “It can happen to anyone. When you listen to the music, in that moment you become happy, and you forget your tiredness.” For him, a constant inspiration is his band: “When I see my boys in action, putting their feeling into the music, I can go on.”

King Sunny Ade has been classed as one of the most influential musicians of all time.

He and his band, the African Beats, have recorded more than 40 albums, averaging sales of 200,000. And his first American release, entitled ”Juju Music,” (Mango Records MLPS 9712A), has been honored by Newsweek magazine, which named it to its list of the top ten albums of 1982.

Ade formed his first band in 1967. He’s made dozens of recordings since, but the real heart of his artistry lies in the way he connects with a live audience. His band can electrify a festival stage with deep grooves and graceful moves, but to really understand Ade’s connection with Nigerians, you’ve got to experience one of his African parties, like the one he hosted this summer in a fluorescent-lit basement auditorium at a Brooklyn high school. The audience mostly consisted of well-heeled Nigerians who came to listen and dance, but also to spray. That’s when you go on stage and make an offering to the singer, generally in the form of cold cash pressed on the forehead.

“I’ve been given flowers, been given handshakes, standing ovations. Those things, even money cannot buy it. It’s love,” Ade says. “And when it comes to African style or Nigerian style or pressing money on my forehead … It’s an appreciation for what I’ve done, or what I am doing. They will come close to you, shower some money on you. And if they have a gift, they will tell you there is a gift. Some people can give cars, refrigerators, whatever, whatever.”

Island Records signed Sunny Ade for Europe and North America

In 1982, Island Records signed Sunny Ade for Europe and North America (promoting him as ‘the African Bob Marley’). The three albums were – Juju Music, Synchro System and Aura. When the artist and the label ultimately disagreed on the artist’s future artistic direction, they parted ways amicably. For almost ten years, King Sunny Ade continued to release records and dominate the domestic music industry in Nigeria, while only vinyl imports trickled out to the rest of the world.In 1996 Ade signed a new deal with Atlantic Records subsidiary, Mesa/Bluemoon under which he released three records. E Dide / Get Up. Odu, and Seven Degrees North.

In January 2002, Ade completed a four year term as President of The Performing Musicians Assoc. of Nigeria (the national musicians union) Still performing weekly at a wide variety of parties and events, both public and private, King Sunny Ade intends to use his newly recaptured free time to focus on his music. With 111 albums to his credit already in Nigeria, African music fans can surely look forward to more great things to come. Juju Music Juju music is a music of broad social messages. Rooted in the ancient Yoruba tradition of conveying broad social and cultural messages. Musically it is a thrilling hybrid of Western pop and traditional African music that incorporates electric guitars and synthesisers with such indigenous instruments as talking drums.

King Sunny Ade, ‘Mango’

King Sunny Ade early ’80s recordings for Mango (Juju Music and Synchro System) are still regarded as crucial albums. Leading a large percussion-heavy band, Ade contrives magical guitar phrases that are both fluid and abrupt while his caressing tenor voice calls forth a powerful response. Electric and pedal steel guitars weave melodies over a battery of drums (including the talking drum) that plays complex rhythms while call-and-response vocals tell stories.

King Sunny Ade ‘The Classic Years’

Recorded from 1967 to 1974 – well over a decade before the master of Nigerian juju was being billed as “the next Bob Marley” – these lush, iridescent workouts are simply some of the sticky-ickiest jams ever recorded anywhere on earth, in any genre.

King Sunny’s guitar rolls resplendently over a plush, constantly shifting undergroove on tracks that keep unveiling “whoa, dude” mysteries, even as they languidly bliss out for as long as 18 minutes. It can evoke everything from surf rock to the Grateful Dead, but comparisons only get you so far – he’s gliding through his own stratosphere, high on his own supply.

King Sunny Ade On Pirates

After decades working the music scene in Lagos, one of Africa’s biggest and toughest cities, Ade knows a thing or two about stress. One of his biggest headaches is Nigeria’s music pirates, who’ve perfected the art of flooding the market with cheap, inferior CD copies within days after a big release. Ade says he’s given up fighting the pirates and now seeks to woo them to his side.

“You know, nowadays, it’s more or less that they are not even hiding it anymore,” Ade says. “They even have a union or an association. They confronted all of us and said, ‘If you want to take us to court, we have enough money to fight it in the court.’ So instead of fighting each other, sit down at a round table: ‘Why do you do this?’ Actually, we don’t call them pirates to their face. We call them ‘special distributors.’ “

Whether it counts as tact, diplomacy or making the best of a hopeless situation, Ade’s approach to piracy echoes his music — what he calls his “synchro system.” It’s all about cooperation, harmony and working together to create something beautiful.


When King Sunny Ade and his colorful band of players rev up their eclectic array of talking drums, Western-style percussion and pedal steel and electric guitars, the music delivers an exhilarating connection between traditional Nigerian culture and contemporary pop. The power of their juju music is so strong that occasionally, when the music and audience reach a synergistic peak, enthusiastic fans rush to the stage to place coins and bills on the players’ sweating foreheads. The practice, which is called “spraying,” according to Ade, revives an ancient custom.

“In the olden days,” he explains, “when a king placed a coin on your forehead . . . that was the sign of a great performer. People are using it now because they appreciate your music . . . the way you perform on stage.”

King Sunny Ade Albums

  • Baba Mo Tunde, King Sunny Ade, 2010
  • Gems From the Classic Years (1967-1974), King Sunny Ade, 2005
  • Classics, Vol. 2: Ekilo Fomo Ode & the Way Forward, King Sunny Ade, 2001
  • Seven Degrees North, King Sunny Ade, 2000
  • Classics, Vol. 1: Let Them Say & Edide, King Sunny Ade, 1999
  • E Dide (Get Up), King Sunny Ade, 1995
  • Sweet Banana (with The Golden Mecury of Africa), King Sunny Ade, 1986
  • Synchro System, King Sunny Ade, 1983
  • Juju Music, King Sunny Ade, 1982
  • Check “E” (with His African Beats), King Sunny Ade, 1981
  • Salps-20 (with His African Beats), King Sunny Ade, 1980
  • Sunny Ade and His Green Spot Band, Vol. 4 (with Green Spot Band), King Sunny Ade, 1971
  • Sunny Ade the Master Guitarist, Vol. 1, King Sunny Ade, 1971

King Sunny Ade Awards

  • City People Movie Lifetime Achievement Award

King Sunny Ade Family

Here are some of King Sunny Ade’s children:

King Sunny Ade Son

  • Sunday Adegeye Junior (SAJ), the son of music icon, King Sunny Ade.

King Sunny Ade Daughter

  • King Sunny Ade has a daughter, Debbie.

King Sunny Ade Remains the Same

King Sunny Ade knows his audience, but he doesn’t pander. Other African singers have changed their style to please foreigners and ended up losing the home crowd. Ade made his mark on juju music early on, but since then, he’s resisted the fads and fashions of four tumultuous decades. That confidence and fidelity is what makes him a king, not a mere politician.

Something else that hasn’t changed is King Sunny Ade’s playful commitment to musical ecstasy. Asked what he’s up to with his new recording, he didn’t miss a beat.

“First of all, it’s for the people to come to the dance floor,” Ade says. “Let’s do it together. Let’s dance together. When you hear me, it’s for you to draw your baby closer to you and then dance along with me, because the whole world is full of stress. Let’s blow it out. Let’s allow the stress to go, at least for a while.”

King Sunny Ade is known to friends and colleagues by the honorific title “The Chairman.”

King Sunny Ade Biography and Profile