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King Sunny Ade – first Nigerian Grammy Award nominee

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Today we celebrate, King Sunny Ade (KSA), the king of Juju and the minister of Enjoyment, the first Nigerian to ever be nominated for a Grammy, for his Synchro System (1983) album nominaation.

King Sunny Ade was born Sunday Adeniyi on September 22, 1946 (a Sunday obviously), to Samuel Adeniyi Adegeye, a church organist in the Methodish Church, Ondo, Nigeria and a member of the Ondo royal family. He dropped out of school (much to his parent’s dissapointment, as music was seen as a commoner’s trade) in 1963 to join the semi-pro juju-playing bands, and learnt to play the guitar. Within a year KSA was a guitarist with Moses Olaiya’s Rhythm Dandies, a top juju outfit at that time. By 1966/67 he had formed his own band, the Green Spots (he was influenced by longtime juju king I.K. Dairo, whose band name was Blue Spots), and recorded his first single, “Challenge Cup,” which celebrated a local soccer team’s championship and became a national hit.

In 1974 after eight years and 12 albums (in those days called LPs), due to contract issues, Green Spots changed her name to African Beats, and then to Golden Mercury.

In 1983, he recorded Synchro System album with the African Beats, and it was so successful that it earned him his first Grammy Award nomination (1984) in the best ethnic/traditional folk recording category, eventually won by Clifton Chenier’s I’m Here.

Other Nigerians have towed the award line, not just in nomination, but in Grammy winnings. Sade Adu won Best New Artiste in 1986. Seal, another Nigerian won Record of the Year for his Kiss from a Rose song. Sikiru Adepoju won the Grammy in 1991 and 2009 as a part of the Mickey Hart’s group, Planet Drum, and Kelvin Olusola won Best Arrangement, Instrumental/A capella category in 2015.

A vintage fender guitar owned by King Sunny Ade was on December 11, 2016, auctioned at N52.1 million in Lagos, one of the highest auctions for a Nigerian musical instrument. The guitar was designed by Victor Ehikamenor

A portion of the Synchro System performed live is free to watch on YouTube, and the full album is on sale on iTunes and Amazon

References:

Grammy Award Winners 1984 – http://www.awardsandshows.com/features/grammy-awards-1984-232.html

King Sunny Ade, Encyclopedia – http://www.encyclopedia.com/people/literature-and-arts/music-popular-and-jazz-biographies/king-sunny-ade

King Sunny Ade Biography, Rolling Stone – http://www.rollingstone.com/music/artists/king-sunny-ade/biography

 

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