Thursday, 10 November 2016

The KSA Memoir: The humiliation that made me to buy a Rolls Royce + Why I rejected Bob Marley’s managers…


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King Sunny Ade in his Majestic Splendour 

I was in my house one day when somebody came from France to see me.  He said his name is Martins Messioner and he said he wanted to start new recordings.  He did not even say at the time that he was an agent for Island Records, the company that recorded Bob Marley.  By that time, Marley had just died.  He said he had gone to see many musicians in Nigeria and they kept recommending me.  And that when he saw Fela, he had asked him; “se you don see Sunny Ade?”  So he came.  He wanted to go into my archives to see some of my recordings but I told him to come back the next day.  I was living in Bariga then.
When he came back, we went straight to the archives.  He played just one or two and only glanced at the album covers of the others that I brought out.  He left without saying anything, promising to return in two days.  He was just smiling when he came back.  “You know the one I played the last time, I so much like it”, he said.  And that happened to be Synchro System.  I was not surprised because it was one album which made waves when it was released. In making Synchro, I combined Afro-beat, Juju and highlife and even traditional incantation with traces of Ambrose Campbell’s style.  It was a hit.  So Martins Messioner now said he would want to re-record it.
King Sunny Ade in his Majestic Splendour 


That was how we went to Togo where the government had a very modern recording studio at the time after which we proceeded to Island Records in London.  Luckily for me, the guy that used to record Bob Marley, a studio engineer, when he heard the music, he said, “Zeelah, I’m gonna work on this”.  So he remixed it.  Then they called me to listen to it.  The music was fantastic.  They now called it Juju Music.  Eventually, Martins Messioner became my manager and signed my contract with Island Records.  And as God would have it, that was the record that brought me popularity in the international community.  When I played in London it was like, “where has this music been?”  People now started looking for all my old records. So I began to make a little money by going into my archives and re-recording them.
KSA...Felt slighted by Island Record's director that he should 'cross the road and take a taxi'
Escaping away from ‘Change’…
Then they came again saying that my music was good and they wanted to have another option to sign directly with me, but that this time, the music would be a little bit reproduced so that it would be acceptable to them over there.  I said, “Okay, let me give you a two inch tape; that is multi-track, for you to reproduce”.  But this time, it was another man who handled the reproduction, not Zeelah who worked on Synchro. His name is not really Zeelah, it’s just that when he hears something fantastic or wonderful, he would exclaim, Zeelah!  So they produced this one and when I heard the sound, I said, “no, this is not my music, I can’t take it”.
“Incidentally, the driver of the car hire that took me to buy the Rolls Royce became my driver.  I was paying him four Pounds per hour that is whenever I’m in London.  Within that time I also bought a house. From there I became a star”
They said well, “your music is popular but the record did not go the way we wanted”.  I said, “Sorry, if I have to go back home and my music has changed, the people would not recognize me.  I’d rather be recognized at home and when I get outside, I would explain myself”.  So the deal was off.  We did not have any fight.  We did not have any misunderstanding.
KSA....Taught the management of Island Record how not to ever insult a customers by purchassing a Rolls Royce
The black taxi insult…
Looking back, I think I was a little bit impatient because I allowed what I felt was a poor treatment meted out to me earlier to affect my decision.  But it was pure ignorance.  I went to Island Record office in London that very morning and when we finished discussions I said, “Can you help me call a car hire?”  And someone said, “Go across the street, you’d see a black cab”. 
Honestly, from my own personal ignorance, I felt insulted.  I said, “Me, go across the street for taxi?”  They said, “yes, all big artistes, Bob Marley, they all go across the street to take black cabs”.  I was so mad.  I waited for a while.  Then I came out of the office and told the secretary, “Do you have the telephone numbers for car hire”.  She said ‘yes but where are you going?’ I said, “Bays water”.  Then she said, ‘I think you better take a black cab because these car hire take time to come.  Anyway let me help you’.  She dialed a number and said it would come around in 20 minutes.  I felt so bad.  I felt so much insulted because I was used to being given star treatment anywhere I went.

So I waited.  My Managing Director was with me.  When the car hire came, we got in.  I was so quiet.  I told the MD, “Do you know what that man said?”  He asked, “Is that why you are boiling?”  I said “yes”.  He said I should forget about it.
KSA....Rejected Island Records offer because he respects his originality
I said, “No, somebody has to prove to them that they shouldn’t be treating artistes like that”.  By that time, I was yet to know whether the production would be okay or not.  That was part of my anger.  On my way I asked the driver. “Can you take me to where they are selling Roll Royce?”  Then he looked at the mirror.

“Rolls what?”  He asked almost in a mocking voice.

“He said Rolls Royce”, my MD replied.  “Do you know us?  You are asking Rolls what?”.Sorry sir”, the driver replied.  “Is it fairly used or new one?”  He asked.  “But what do you want to use a Rolls Royce for” he pressed further.  “That’s my cup of tea”, I told him.  He now said he knew places.  I said, “Fairly used but not too old”.

We went to one garage, when I came down I started seeing very old Rolls Royces.  The ones of the 1950s and 60;  I said, “no, not these”.  He then took us to Barclays but on the way he said, “Excuse me sir, I want to sell this car”.  “Which one?”  I asked.
KSA....First Nigerian Musician to buy a Rolls Royce
“The one we are inside”, he replied, “It is the latest Audi”.  “For this one, my boss can only give it out to people”, my MD replied. “Take us to where we’d get Rolls Royce”.

When we got there, Jesus Christ!  I saw beautiful Rolls Royce cars – some customed made with the names of the owners written on them.  I saw others.  Then one of the men came and said “yes, what can we do for you?”

“I want to know the prices of the Rolls Royce cars, because I want to buy one”, I replied, adding, “Do you have any other ones apart from the ones you make for people because I cannot wait until I order for one”.
KSA....A Man of Style and Pedigree
“Well, we have fairly used down stairs”, he said.  He then took us to the basement.  I saw more than thirty there.  I stood on one spot looking around, and then I said, “That one”.

“Are you serious?”  The man asked.

“Ye”, I replied.

“A minute”, he said, “I’d be back”, as he moved out.

When he came back with the cost, it went for more than 100,000 Pounds (One hundred Pounds Sterling)  I wrote the cheque. He said it had to be backed by a company or by someone.  So I phoned my manager, Martins Messioner to come and meet me there.

“What are you doing there?”  He asked.

“I want to buy a Rolls Royce”, I said.

“What!” he shouted.

“That’s what I want”, I said.  I did not tell him what happened because if I did, he won’t come.  The salesman said I could not get the Rolls Royce immediately as I had to give them at least two weeks so that they could clean it and whoever was to drive it, had to undergo training there.  I said okay.
KSA....A Global Band Leader
I was supposed to wait to sign some papers but I left for Nigeria that night.  My MD stayed behind.  From Nigeria, I kept calling my MD to know when the Rolls Royce would be ready. As soon as he told me it was, I went back to London and the Rolls Royce was brought to the Airport to take me to town.  The driver who was almost 80 years old at the time only knew my MD. When I came, he quickly opened the door for my MD and said, pointing at me “Is that your secretary?”

“Ah, no”, my MD quickly replied, “That’s my boss I told you I’m waiting for”.  A lot of prominent Nigerians alighted from the plane with me. When I asked some of them which cars they were taking, they said they had called for cars to come and pick them up.  I said, “Let’s go in my car”.  As they approached the car they said, “Sunny, this is your car?”  I said “yes”.

“Rolls Royce?”  That morning I could not eat.  I could not do anything.  I said, let’s go to Island Records.  When we got there I quickly pointed to the man, “that’s my car”.  He shouted, “A Rolls Royce?”  It was then the man said he didn’t mean any harm.  “If you had told me, I would have explained”.
KSA...Got two Grammy nominations from Island Records
KSA; First Nigerian Musician to buy a Rolls Royce…
From that point it became history that I was the first Nigerian musician to own a Rolls Royce.  People thought I did it intentionally because I want to show off.  That’s the reason I didn’t bring the car to Nigeria, though it’s right hand drive.  Incidentally, the driver of the car hire that took me to buy the Rolls Royce became my driver.  I was paying him four Pounds per hour that is whenever I’m in London.  Within that time I also bought a house. From there I became a star.  So when they now told me about the production, I preferred to go back home because I’ve seen what they’ve done to so many musicians.  You can be popular but how about home? For instance, someone like Youssour Ndour (Senegalese top Music act) to me he is good but they have changed his music.  He is now singing like a foreigner.

(Excerpts from the book; KSA: My Life, My Music by King Sunny Ade. Read ‘How I founded PMAN & became King of Music’ tomorrow on this blog)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

Africa's Number One Celebrity Encounter Blog

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