Monday, February 4, 2008

King Sunny Ade - The Mango Albums


There's no specific album title associated with this review, because, let's face it, to the uninitiated all forty or so of his albums sound about the same, but damn, what a sound it is.

King Sunny Ade is a legend in his home continent of Africa. If you know anyone from Nigeria, just mention King Sunny's name and immediately you'll watch their face transform, their eyes brighten, their lips bounce into a smile, their shoulders loosen. You can almost see them get ready to dance. Such is the love for the man in his homeland. Everything he ever recorded in Nigeria is gold, his songs dominate the airwaves and he owns half the country. Not bad for the work of a man who left his royal heritage behind to play his music.

King Sunny is the undisputed king of Juju music, a near psychedelic blend of weaving African guitar, talking drum, congas, synthesizers and harmonious vocals. His music doesn't pound or thunder like the Afrobeat of his countryman Fela, rather it ungulates and purrs. It is rhythm in its purest sense, constant and unwavering in its gracefulness. His gentle guitar tones, duck and weave around the talking drums, lilting through the spaces in the polyrhythm, dancing across the bass. Sunny's voice adds texture, never overpowering, but soothing in its call-and-response. His vocals are repetitive like a mantra, encouraging you to leave your seat and worries behind, jump to your feet and move that thing you call an ass.

The first time I ever heard his creation was on the beach, at midnight in San Diego. Imagine the scene, if you will. It was a near heaven experience. Lost amongst the beck and call of the waves, the crackling of the fire and the brilliance of the stars, King Sunny's talking drum called out, like a beacon, ushering me off to an exotic land where problems and worries are not allowed to exist. Trust me, psychedelics weren't needed. Just the music, baby. Since then, I've seen King Sunny live several times, and never has he failed to transfix the audience with the swooping majesty of his music.

King Sunny has put out tons of albums on many different labels over his 40 year career, many of which are available in the states. Check out Synchro System or Juju Music, probably his greatest masterpieces, but Aura on the Mango label is also excellent. These three Mango albums were the ones that first introduced America to the mesmerizing infectiousness of Juju in the early eighties. If you can't find these, any of his more recent recordings such as Odu will fill the bill.

Put it on, turn the lights down low, relax and prepare to become one with the music. --Racer

Buy here: Synchro System

Buy here: Juju Music

www.kingsunnyade.com



2 comments:

Enitan said...

King Sunny Ade's music might "sound just about the same" to those who are unable to hear what true lovers of African music hear. I'm glad we agree that Sunny's music is dynamic! I should know. I may not be a concert groupie but I'm a die hard King Sunny Ade fan who will sing along and sway to his music until my final breath. :-) Sunny remains the King of his craft.

funkspiel said...

He is the "Minister of Enjoyment", indeed.

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