Interview with King Sunny Ade of the Coke Studio Africa

King Sunny Ade is a Nigerian based artist who is participating in Season One of the Coke Studio Africa show. This is a unique music show that brings together artists from different genres, eras and regions to create a modern and authentic African sound through musical fusion. Read on to see what he thinks of the show, his time there sofar and his music in general.

Tell us a little about yourself

I was born in the year 1946 on the 22nd of September in the Royal family in Ondu town in the western part of Nigeria. That is where I went to school as well as started my music career. I found myself in music, I never trained for it, neither did I go to school for it, but I thank God for where I am today.

How did your love of music come about?

I was born into a royal family, and in the royal house, you cannot play your own music, the music is played for you. From the age of five I loved dancing and I would tap anything that I could see that created sound, even cans. Gradually I came to realize that I loved music and when I joined elementary school I joined the boy’s brigade. After that, I joined the boy scouts where they had a drum section. I learned how to play the drums as well as different percussion instruments and after I finished school, I joined a band where I became the band leader. Later, I started my own band in 1966 which I have up to date.

Do you remember the exact moment when you realized this is what you wanted to do as a career?

The day I laid my hands on a percussion instrument and saw people around me dancing and giving me gifts, I realized that I wanted to be a musician, or anything that is in the circle of music.

Why is music special to you?

I believe that Nigerian music has an effect on human beings. The moment you hear the music, you feel good and happy, and from that point, you can use music for education, festivals, and whatever else. There is no event in Nigeria that is held without music. I think music is an invisible injection in that when you hear it, you start moving your body to it.

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How did you move from being a Nigerian artist to a worldwide success?

First I would like to thank the people of Nigeria because I believe they are the ones that sold me out to the people of the world. With the formation of my band in the early 70s, we travelled to London and America as a cultural exchange. We also got artistes from abroad coming here and other Nigerian artists doing the same too. At around 1984, Island records from London sent a message that they were looking for me and Fela Kuti after the death of Bob Marley was announced. So we went and recorded an album and it sold very well. The first time I went there (London) with my band to perform in a concert, we first went to a TV station to do an interview, and after the interview, a lot of calls started coming into the station and we had such a big crowd at the concert! There were more than 20,000 people outside and the police had to tell them to leave because the concert had been sold out. From there, the media took over and named me the new star and when we went to perform in America, they also expected the same performance and we delivered. 

How have you managed to keep your focus on music and not fame?

I love what I do and I have a passion for my music. I respect that it’s my music that has led to my popularity globally so for me, it’s still my new born baby. Also, since people keep asking for more, I cannot sideline it.

Describe your music to us

My music gives happiness. One might not know what I am singing or saying but you can feel it musically, and one cannot stop it. You cannot ignore it and want more of it.

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Tell me what you think of African music

There are different types of African music. In my music, you can see all the genres of African music combined to make a unique sound, and when you listen to it, especially when you hear the whole band perform, it almost feels like you are watching your favorite movie.

What would you say has been the best moment of your career?

Every time I am asked that question I say now, because every day in my music career is new to me, especially when I am here right now. It is my first time in Nairobi and I am involved in a project that the whole world is eager to be part of. So when I say now, it’s because new opportunities keep coming my way every day.

Tell us about the songs that you are performing on Coke Studio

I am doing three songs, Tlongo, Edide and Wait for me. Tlongo is a popular traditional folk song for little kids especially in the Yoruba speaking area.

The moment you learn the song at an early age, it sticks in your head till you are older. I chose it because it closes the gap between the young and the old as anyone can listen to it and enjoy it. I am collaborating with Octopizzo on the track because when I saw him, I loved his outfit and after I watched his tracks on TV, I wanted to collaborate with him.

My second song is Edide, I wrote it about 28 years ago and the song is about happiness. When anything bad happens to you, you have to find a way to create happiness. This song was made for people to get up and dance, because that is what the song stands for. Edide will be done differently on Coke Studio because I am using the Coke Studio band who are amazing, from the drummer, to the singers and also the percussionists! If my 22 piece band came with me, I am sure they would be happy to see them at work. The third song Wait for me was written by Onyeka Onwenu, a lady in Nigeria who we called the “Queen of Pop”.

There was a time when an American university brought a project to Nigeria for family planning, and when they approached me, I felt that I should involve other artists so that they wouldn’t feel isolated. That is the time Onyeka came up with a very good song which we amended. The song became appreciated by the whole country and won an award in America. At this point I said to myself, it was good to sing this now in this project because the message in the song is going to young people. It advises them to plan their lives well before they get married or before they start giving birth to other generations. I have collaborated with Sage on this song, and when I heard her singing during rehearsals I thought she was a very pretty girl with a beautiful voice.

How would you describe your work ethic?

I always like to listen to every sound that comes to my ear, and if there is something I want to adjust or fit, I mention it right there and then. I also love interacting with other musicians and advising them about the industry and their ideas. I also love making people happy!

What do you think about the Coke Studio concept?

It’s a new concept and I hope other musicians will benefit from this project. I believe this concept is the beginning of something great.

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Coke Studio,  airs in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania & Nigeria and includes eight 45min shows plus a planned 2 hour New Year’s Eve special. Each episode will showcases an unexpected fusion by various groups of artists to create a unique sound. The show also provides viewers with a behind the scenes look into the artist’s interactions and experiences on set.

In addition to the TV show, fans will be able to watch and download various content such as video, MP3 and wallpapers on the new Coke Studio Africa website. Entire episodes of the show will also be available on the official YouTube channel. Viewers across the continent have the opportunity to win various prizes including autographed posters, Coke Studio kits and branded merchandise through the show.

Written by Muwado

Muwado is an arts, lifestyle, entertainment, humour and entrepreneurship and social networking website tailored for Africa.

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