Many fans thought Onyeka Onwenu

As King Sunny Ade prepares to celebrate his 70th birthday, the musician speaks on his recent United  States tour, his opinion on Nigerian hip hop, his family, among other, TADE MAKINDE reports. 


You will be 70 this month. What plans have you in place for hitting the age?

My sincere appreciation to my fans, the media, friends and everybody that has invested in the KSA brand in one way or the other. I am really greateful to you journalist for all the support you have been giving me for decades. It is the push that has been coming from home media that has given us the respect that we have overseas. We were well treated because of your reports. I am used to holding private moments with close friends yearly every birthday, but because 70 is a landmark event, and because of the unique way my people have planned this edition, I see the birthday as the start of a new life for me. God will always continue to celebrate those of you who have always been part of my celebrations.  There is a four -month scattered plan on ground, but truth is, I started celebrating since September 1 and will continue till December. That day, I was specially prayed for by Pastor Enoch Adeboye. I was given holy communion and I cherish that day.


You said ‘unique.’ What’s going to be different this time round?

My usual birthdays is always a week. In the past, it was always from September 22 to 29. Now, everything will start proper on September 21 to December 31. There are plans for me to be hosted even abroad by fans and friends. It’s the first time I would be having a pre-birthday. That will be on the eve of 22. There will be a gospel music night. They want to be the first to sing before my birthday proper. A family prayer and prayers by friend and partners will also hold. That day, my children will celebrate their father. I am happy that I have children who are old enough to celebrate me. As usual, I will visit the motherless babies. Also, my family will celebrate me. There will be a lecture at the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), to be followed by a show that will have KSA on bandstand at the Ooni’s palace. In October, there will be a book launch in South Africa, just as there will be a musical concert that will feature the old and young acts from all genres of music. Associations in the media, music, presenters will also host me


You must have your fears. In 70 years, what has been your biggest fear?

That is the day God will say to me that I should stop singing, that I should stop giving the fans what they want. That is my only fear


Decades ago, you released an album entitled ‘Wait For Me’. What was it between you and Onyeka?

It was a gimmick of sort. Then, UNICEF noted that young people were having unprotected sex and having babies that they shouldn’t be having. In USA, an idea of featuring males and females in songs worked and they felt it could be tried in Africa. They agreed on Onyeka and I. Somehow, the controversy around my relationship with Onyeka helped to make the project work in Nigeria. Many believed that we were dating and wanted to see what was going to come out of the relationship. I was not involved with Onyeka. She is a colleague and a good lady. I had no crush on her, but that was what many thought and it sold the album. It was only recently that the two of us played together. About two and a half months ago, she was also around when I had a show with Wizkid. She joined us on stage to sing


What is your view of the new generation of music and artistes we now have and the quality of music?

Most expect me to criticise what we have. I can’t. What we have now is Nigeria’s new brand of music and it has gained global aapeal. If Nigerians accept it, why won’t I? We are all in this industry together, including the media. If you feel something is being done wrongly, you should use your pen to correct it. Our mistake  is where we expect the up- and-coming ones to learn from and improve on so that the end can be better than the beginning. Our predecessors made mistakes which we  worked on. We need producers whose jobs will be to ensure that quality music is eventually put out there. It should be same with the new generation of acts. As regards content, you have to consider where things are now, where it was in the past. Back then, we had great studios-EMI, Decca, Phillips, many others scattered all over the North and Eastern parts. Now we have people using the basement of homes as studios. Things have changed. It is in this situation that our young ones are still churning out good music. Most even take their songs to ksaGhana, South Africa to mix or master. All of these were once done perfectly in this country. But things can be better. The new generation of artistes are doing their best to continue where we have brought Nigerian and African music. Of course I have problems with some slangs, especially their word col’labo. It is collaboration. I find the word demeaning. When people criticise  them for what they do, I quickly tell them that in our time, we were not this many then. Most parents would not allow you to play or listen to music. But now, most parents bring their  children  to us and beg us to teach them music. As long as they are willing to take from us, work on it, leave what is not needed and make good music, it is allowed. We copied our predecessors when we were starting out. Most of us adopted from IK Dairo, Ambrose Campbell and many others and used what we felt was best for us. In life, you look up to some people and try to take what is beat from them for your good. My only advice now is that they must learn to depend less on computer to make songs. Any music that you can’t use your hand to make is not yours. We can embrace computer, but it’s risky to rely soley on it. Learn to use an instrument.


You’ve lasted decades and still going strong singing and performing. You just came back from a tour of United States after 10 weeks. What is it about the new acts that they don’t last longer than one single or one album?

Back then, we had bands. You knew that you belonged and never thought of going solo. As a team, you could do more. Now, we don’t have bands again because it is expensive to form and keep one. A good guitar costs close to N18, 000 now. A band needs more that five. Is it amplifiers, drums, microphones? Do the calculation and you see why it’s easier and cheaper to go it solo these days. Those of us who have equipment can’t even think of buying new ones because they cost a lot. The issue of piracy is also there. With digital downloads now, an artiste’s earning avenue is further depleted. We can only hope that government will do something about this. We won’t stop talking about this because this is our constituency and the only thing we do for a living. There are so many songs in the air, but no money for the act. Most just want to be popular, but they don’t even have the kind of money to maintain that fame


One of your guitars and costume is on display in a museum in Arizona. How did it get there?

That museum has corners for everyone from anywhere in the world. It is in the West Africa corner. Both have been there for about three years now. It was used to raise money for the museum. Many musical equipment from all over the world are there on display, same for pictures for some that are yet to be there. When we went there during the last tour, we played for some members of the academia. Many of them had never seen us before.


When are you releasing another album?

We are working on something, especially as this is a special year for me


Your tour was botched last year. How did you make it this year?

This year’s tour for us was an image redeeming tour. Image remaking because we had missed out for the last two years. The first did not cause any stir. But last year when we were not seen at the event, we were protected from legal issues because of the statement that US Embassy in Nigeria, and the Immigration made to the whole world. Suddenly, news filtered all over that I had died. It became an issue among promoters. I quickly debunked the story, but my fans over there wanted to see me with their own eyes. When we got the tour started, we had  filled venues. We gave them the best of stage artistry. It was a successful tour and I am grateful to God how things played out.