King Sunny Ade


Since the evolution of juju music in Nigeria in the 1930s, no exponent has made a more lasting impact in the genre than King Sunny Ade. As a singer, composer and guitarist, this two-time Grammy Award nominee and pioneer of modern world music has succeeded in taking this Nigerian social music to international heights.

Ade formed his first band in 1967, had his first hit single a year later, and has been in the limelight in Nigeria ever since. In the years that followed, he continued to forge his own identity in the music, with attention focused on rhythmic integration and more defined lead singing. In the mid-1970s, like all of Africa, Ade was influenced by Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat, and Afrobeat bass lines and guitar riffs were soon incorporated, creating a totally new fusion of the forms.

In 1982, his music reached North America and he was hailed as possibly the “next Bob Marley”, who had tragically died in 1981. Singing in his native Yoruba language, Ade went on to define the terms “Afropop” and “World beat” and open the door to the West for other African musicians.

King Sunny Ade & His African Beats last toured North America in 2005. They will lay down their trademark mix of talking drum-driven grooves, multi-guitar weaves, lilting vocal harmonies, and pedal steel accents, and take their audiences on an intoxicating journey.

Artist Links:  iTunes Music

Areas of Representation: Worldwide


Since the evolution of juju music in Nigeria in the 1930s, no exponent has made a more lasting impact in the genre than King Sunny Ade. As a singer, composer and guitarist, this two-time Grammy Award nominee and pioneer of modern world music has succeeded in taking this Nigerian social music to international heights.

Ade came on the scene in 1966 following his induction as a Samba player in a small group led by showman and comedian Baba Sala, known in real life as Moses Olaiya. And with his own ten-piece band, the Green Spots, Ade made his first record in 1967, playing the guitar solos himself. He however, blazed into prominence a year after with a hit single in praise of Stationery Stores football club which carved him a gold disc as a result of its massive sales. Since then Ade has been in the limelight.

The late sixties found Ade searching for a credible sound identity that tended to fuse the influence of Tunde Nightingale with the techniques of his mentor, Moses Olaiya, in order to forge his own individuality and direction. Emphasis was therefore placed on melodic exploration, simple vocal themes and accompaniment based more on social commentaries than clear-cut, definitive tunes.

But it was in the seventies that he really got himself together, trying to perfect a sense of direction within the juju format. Attention began to be focused on rhythmic integration, lead singing began to assume a more defined and aggressive pattern with such hits as “Ekilo fomo ode” “Esu biri biri,” “Nitori awa wa”, some of which were steeped in highlife.

In the mid-seventies Ade adopted a new cultural dimension when he was influenced like every other musician by the cultural wind that began to blow through Africa. He was influenced by Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s Afro beat, evidence of which was prominent in his instrumentation where the guitars riffed figures that were imitative of the Afro beat legend’s creations. His guitar solos were also affected as he did not only include the tenor guitar, which was Fela’s concept; he actually lured Fela’s famous exponent of this instrument, Sony Ohiri, into joining his own aggregation which had metamorphosed from Green Spots to African Beats. And it was a new development for juju music. A typical Afrobeat-influenced tune from this era was “synchro system” which was predicated mainly on an Afrobeat bass movement aside from the singing.

The 1980s experienced a consolidation in Ade’s orchestral arrangements, which now took preeminence over every other element. He began to play with the confidence and authority of a super star, developing a sense of melodic inventiveness woven around simple structures. He had established a sense of direction and reached the peak of his performing career with well-choreographed steps and the professional stage act that was predicated on flamboyance and athletic movements.

Fortunately, for Ade, it was at this peak of his blossoming career that his popularity was scientifically tested and acknowledged by a hit parade that was being conducted by Research and Marketing Services Limited for Radio Nigeria 2, the then leading FM Station in the country. Ade often topped the Nigerian social music category of this chart with such hit albums as “Afefe yeye,” “Check E,” “Searching for my Love,” “Juju Music” among others. This success gave Ade a kind of larger-than-self popularity which exposed him to the international scene. Ade no doubt has brought a number of innovations to juju. His archrival, Ebenezer Obey, had succeeded in transforming the music from its neo-traditional status to an urban social music type with the introduction of the trap drums and three guitars. But Ade further revolutionized juju music by increasing these guitars, adding more drums, introducing flamboyance of a robust type, elegance and dignity to the live performance of the music.

His words: “When I met juju music, musicians were still sitting down, with instruments arranged in front. I found it hard because I knew people were not getting full value for their money. So I started standing and dancing. I moved the instruments backwards to allow them enjoy their money and gave my boys a microphone each to dance and sing.” Continuing, he said, “At that time too, they were playing only one guitar. I increased to two, three, four, five and the present six. I dropped the use of the accordion and introduced keyboards, the manual jazz drum and now the electronic jazz drum. I introduced the use of pedal steel, otherwise known as Hawaiian guitar, increased the percussion aspect of the music, added more talking drums, introduced computer into juju music and de-emphasized the use of high tone in the vocals.”

When Ade signed on with Island Records in 1982 as a result of attracting international attention, he was perhaps the biggest natural phenomenon on the Nigerian music scene where massive record sales kept him at the top of the charts. With the release of the album “Juju Music”, Ade was launched personally onto the Western pop scene, and his presence generated the kind of buzz associated with a big star. He was presented as a Yoruba prince and referred to as king. His musicians called him “Chairman.” Elegant, youthful-looking and courteous, Sunny Ade had the charisma to match his new status. He even had the air of regal candor to go with his title, “the king of juju music.”

Tour Dates

Future Tour Dates

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Tour History

Return to Future Tour Dates

Aug 15, 2016 Venue Info
Phoenix, AZ USA Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)
Aug 14, 2016 Venue Info
Los Angeles, CA USA Regent Theater
8:00 PM  
Aug 13, 2016 Venue Info
San Francisco, CA USA Slim's
Aug 12, 2016 Beloved Open-Air Sacred Art and Music Festival Venue Info
Tidewater, OR USA Tidewater Falls
Aug 11, 2016 Venue Info
Seattle, WA Triple Door
Time TBD  
Aug 10, 2016 Venue Info
Seattle, WA Triple Door
Time TBD  
Aug 9, 2016 Venue Info
Portland, OR USA Star Theater
8:30 PM  
Aug 5, 2016 Pickathon Roots Music Festival Venue Info
Happy CIty, OR USA Pendarvis Farm
Aug 3, 2016 Venue Info
Boulder, CO USA Fox Theater
8:30 PM  
Jul 30, 2016 Venue Info
Lowell, MA USA Lowell Folk Festival site
Time TBD  
Jul 20, 2016 Venue Info
Minneapolis, MN USA Cedar Cultural Center
Time TBD  
Jul 18, 2016 Venue Info
Chicago, IL USA Jay Pritzker Pavilion - Millennium Park
8:00 PM  
Jul 16, 2016 Concert of Colors Venue Info
Detroit, MI USA Max Fisher Music Center
6:00 PM  
Jul 15, 2016 Venue Info
Cleveland, OH USA Cleveland Museum of Art - Transformer Station
7:30 PM  
Jul 14, 2016 BAM Rhythm and Blues Festival at Metrotech 2016 Venue Info
Brooklyn, NY USA Metrotech Plaza
12:00 Noon  
Jul 6, 2016  
Boston, MA USA The Sinclair
Time TBD  
Jul 6, 2016 Venue Info
Boston, MA USA The Sinclair
Time TBD  
Jul 3, 2016 Venue Info
New York, NY USA Central Park - Rumpsey Playfield


Interview with BBC’s Leslie Goffe, Aug. 2016 (5 min. audio)


  • King Sunny Adé launches first US tour since 2009 July 7, 2016

    King Sunny Ade

    King Sunny Adé is celebrating his 70th birthday year with a return tour of the US, his first since 2009. The summer tour will include performances from New York City and Boston, through the Midwest and Southwest to the Northwest and California.

    Boston Globe interview

  • The New York Times: “Running Deep, the Roots of King Sunny Adé” October 28, 2015

    A fantastic New York Times article on the roots of King Sunny Adé:

    “From Bhojsons, the musician would stroll down the rail track all the way to his rented room in Mushin, some three miles north. It was the mid-1960s and the young man, Sunday Ishola Adeniyi Adegeye, still an unknown ...

  • King Sunny Ade to Tour North America in 2016-17 August 20, 2015

    Riot Artist is thrilled to welcome King Sunny Ade to our touring roster for the 2016-17 season!

    Since the evolution of juju music in Nigeria in the 1930s, no one has made a more lasting impact in the genre than King Sunny Ade. As a singer, composer and guitarist, he has succeeded over the years in ...


It is a fine album, one that showcases Ade’s beloved polyrhythmic guitar melodies, impassioned vocals, and breathtaking percussion jams. While every track on Seven Degrees North is a gem, special mention must be made of Solution and Ariya, two of the set’s most expansive, life-affirming songs. … it is a wonderfully vibrant collection of material, one that serves as a reminder of Ade’s remarkable talent. — THE MUSIC BOX

The Synchro System (1983) tracks … show him and his African Beats at their very best. It’s an album that still sounds remarkable for its blend of light, subtle and insistent rhythms (including some impressive talking drum solos), along with fine, delicate vocals from King Sunny and quite remarkable guitar solos. The title- track was a hit in the UK and a dance club favourite, with its hypnotic, gently driving drum patterns matched against easy-going vocals and glorious steel guitar playing. — BBC

Boston Globe Interview – June 30, 2016


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