Tuesday, 8 November 2016

The KSA Memoir: Funny things I did on my first trip to America + Untold story of my International honors

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KSA...'My immitation of American language was bad enough and it flopped'
“It was like going to the moon.  ‘What were we going to tell the people when we returned? Well, let us go and come back’, we reasoned.  Everybody had been going to America but this was our first time.  In those days, before you go out, people will be sending you off. 
Everybody was doing send-off party for me.  My fans in Ibadan would give me send off-party; in Lagos, send-off party; in Ondo, send off party.  I said, “enough, let us go and retun”.  And when we returned, it was now welcome parties everywhere!  When we were about to leave, we thought ‘well, we’ve been to Germany and England; in America, we would do so and so.  We also though we would be able to bring in all our equipments.  We started from Washington, DC.  We played there for Nigerians with the equipment they brought.  We were not used to it but we managed.  By the second week, I asked them where I could get equipments.  When I entered the store, I couldn’t come out until five hours later!  I was simly captivated by the rows and rows of musical instruments of different shapes and make stretching as far as the eye could see.  I wanted to buy every single one of them and take to Nigeria.

KSA....A Greatness foretold
Our American Kabu-Kabu formular…
The American tour made possible by the Nigerian Cultural Exchange saw us playing in New York, Philadelphia and Maryland.  The shows were well received but our stay had its comic side.  On arrival, we put on this American accent—ye men, we gonna see ya, shit, etc. which we thought would impress the people there.  It only made them to laught at us because we could not even say these things well.  Some Nigerians we met had to advice us to speak naturally.  For me, I went too far.  I used to dress like a Cowboy in the manner of John Wayne. Even up till 1984/85, I would wear a native dress with a cowboy shoe to match!  You can imagine how I looked in America.

But we met so many people who had been expecting my kind of music and they enjoyed it very much. There were older people like Pa Olatunji, Dr. Oladapo and Dr. Oyewo among others who advised us on what to do in our subsequent tour of America.  In all, we spent three months on that first visit, the usual time for musicians on cultural exchange sponsorship..

“There was also  the time the City of Atlanta sent for me to receive the key to the city.  And that day was called “King Sunny Ade Day”.  It was wonderful. This was signed by Andrew Young himself.  And there I was photographed with him and other state officials”. 

KSA....Created a reactionary mood to culture shock in USA
The band has since been to America several times.  During one of these tours, we played in 20 cities across America, doing 27 shows in all.  It also featured Chief Osita Osadebe.  The reviews in the press were same.  “Kind Sunny Ade and Osita Osadebe Tear the roof Down”.  The last show, which I called. “Palmwine Night”, was reported by the press as, “The best show of King Sunny Ade”.  We played in the Old Theatre which could only take 5000 people.  There I changed the whole concept of my show and was able to explain what juju music is all about and why we called the night, “Palmwine Night”.  At the end of the show, they did not want to leave and were asking for more.

KSA....The Story changed in USA
Music has taken me far and wide…
My music has taken me to almost every country in the world.  I have played in Vancouver, Canada; and in toronto, I played alongside Peter Tosh, James Brown and the Police.  In this instance, while other people played, they threw cans at them but when I mounted the stage, even though they did not understand my language, they danced enthusiastically to my music.  France, Switzerland, Holland, West Germany, Sweden, Belgium, Finland, Italy are just few of the countries that I have toured.  But Japan was something else.  The concert which took place at the national Statidum in Tokyo had more than 250,000 people in attendnance.  And it was beamed live to over 100 million Japanese.

My Awards…
I began receiving awards in recognition of my music from home long before the international awards came.  Different schools and organsiations gave me awards in Nigeria as well as some state governments.  But in 1971, I started getting awards abroad.  That was when I went to London on a performing tour to promote my album.  I got awards from the organizers of the tour and from companies and recording companies.  When I came back home, we went to America.  Again, awards came from individual companies but none from the government yet.

KSA with global personalities
The story of my ‘OTUNBA’…
From 1978, I started getting awards from different parts of the world like the Golden Mecury of Africa  award among others.  In the 80s, I began to receive keys to cities, awards from different organisations, traditional institutions, churches, student organisations and schools.  In the 90s, I started getting honourary doctorate degrees  from universities.  I refused to accept these from abroad until Lagos State University gave me its honourary doctorate.  I did not accept the doctorate degree from home first.  I am the first popular musician to be given a honourary doctorate in Nigeria.  The others are artists.  I have awards and certificates from different towns in Nigeria as well as chieftancy titles.  But, I’m a prince by birth and so cannot be called a chief.  Sometimes Oba Sijuade would say, “you are a prince, why are they giving you chieftancy titles?”  My own Otunba is not a title.  I am from a royal family.

KSA...Conquered the world with Music
King Sunny Ade Day…
I do not believe there are small or big awards.  Each award has its significance.  Before an award is given to anyone, a number of criteria must have been taken into account. I appreciate any award given to me.  Sometimes it is as small as a pin which I pin to my suit.  While on tour of Europe, I was once called to receive an award by the State Department in Washington DC along with Onyeka Onwenu.  They paid for everythng: return ticket to Washington: my hotel accommodation and other expenses.  There was also  the time the City of Atlanta sent for me to receive the key to the city.  And that day was called “King Sunny Ade Day”.  It was wonderful. This was signed by Andrew Young himself (America’s elder statesman and black emancipation leader).  And there I was photographed with him and other state officials.  At another time, the Mayor of Berkerly called me to his office to receive the key of the city.  The same thing happened in Chicago, Providence and Miami and many cities.

KSA...on World tour of Canada & America 
Me & Awards…
When you receive one award you would be wondering what was happening.  When it became two, you now know you are on the platform with the whole world watching you.  With a third one, you would say, “this is a challenge.  I will continue to do my best”.  If you receive the fourth one, then you say, “there must be something I’ve been doing that people appreciate”.  When more awards come your way, you now say, “yes, by the grace of God, I think I’m getting somewhere”.  This is the way I look at things especially awards given to me.  You can imagine the Queen of England shaking my hand; other presidents across the world shaking my hand.  If you consider that, it is not by accident.  When the Queen came to Nigeria in 1956, I ran about 10 miles with the Boys’ Brigade holding the Commonwelath Torch.  I could only wave at her.  She didn’t know who I was.

KSA...on World tour of Canada & America
But in 2004, I was given an invitation to come and welcome Her Royal Majesty, the Queen of England, in the Nigeria Ambassador’s Residence in Abuja, Nigeria.  When I stepped into the place, I met heads of state, both serving and past.  I saw first class traditional rulers.  The queen went round shaking the hands of everyone present.  When it came to my turn, I just mumbled something as she shook my hand.  It was an honour.  I was proud when our president, Olusegun Obasanjo came to me and said, “Ah, Sunny, I will see you later”.  It was an honour.

KSA....The Band Leader
(Excerpts from the book; KSA: My Life, My Music by King Sunny Ade. Read ‘Mysterious things people do to musicians on stage’ tomorrow on this blog)

Gbenga Dan Asabe

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