Friday, January 2, 2009

King Sunny Adé & His African Beats

- Juju Music (Front), 1981 - Island Records #ILPS 9712

After the death of Bob Marley, certain record executives began scratching their heads in effort to replicate the money-making potential that a 'Voice of the Third World' could provide.  Granted, Marley never lit up the charts during his lifetime - but what did that matter?  Money was to be had.

They tried the living Wailers - and various other reggae talents, but that didn't work.

Peter Tosh's stance on the shit-stem would never allow it.  Bunny Wailer was too square.  Prince Far-I was too Heavy.  Burning Spear was too... well, I'm not sure why Burning Spear never caught on.  If anyone had a legit shot at chasing Marley's Ghost, it would have been Winston Rodney.  Too bad the sheer quality of the man's work diminished after Marley passed. 

Nope.  The suits decided to turn towards Africa itself.  

Who is more Third World than Africa, Bud? 
Um... I don't know.  Parts of Asia seem pretty bad.
Yeah.  But you can't shake your ass to xylophones and gongs. 
Why not, Bob?  My wife shakes her ass to lasagna cooking!  
Ha Ha!  No, seriously...

Arista Records opened the door by signing Nigerian Afrobeat sensation Fela Kuti.  Not to be outdone - and to forever prove to the world just how innovative they were, Island Records' Chris Blackwell, in turn, signed Nigerian Jùjú star King Sunny Adé. 
The clever little marketing execs had all bases covered, going so far as to dub Sunny Adé the 'African Bob Marley'.  Record reviewers would soon follow suit.  

Too bad neither of them helped the cause.

Whether or not it had to do with slumping sales figures, failed expectations or - as reported, Adé's refusal to include English into his music, Island Records would cut ties with him in 1984 after three powerful long-players.  

Say what you will about moronic record executives, but the short-lived marriage between King Sunny Adé and the mainstream produced brilliance; the Juju Music, Synchro System, and Aura albums are now considered Adé's trinity.

- Aura (Front), 1983 - Island Records UK #ILPS 9746

While those three albums are an excellent place to start, Adé's self-released Ijinle Odu (1982) and Ajoo (1983) brings the jùjú picture into better focus for the uninitiated.  

Someone once said that if you listen to King Sunny Adé & His African Beats and do not find yourself bopping to the rhythms, you must be dead.  

Or chronically white.

Nope.  No angst here.

Links of Interest:

* Juju Music, 1981 -- Bravo Juju Blog
* Ijinle Odu, 1982 -- Snap, Crackle & Pop Blog
* Ajoo, 1983 -- No Condition is Permanent Blog

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