King Sunny Ade,
Synchro Series
(Indige, 2003)

King Sunny Ade is one of the world's best-known Nigerian musicians. This rerelease, a combination of two CDs, shows him at the peak of his career.

Ade plays "juju music," which is the music of the Nigerian lower classes, as opposed to "highlife" played in upscale hotels and nightclubs. The word "juju" comes from the sound of the talking drum. It uses polyrhythms and the call and response vocals of traditional African music, mixing in electric guitars and keyboards.

Ade's music is, of course, different than Western pop. It combines a number of guitars (as many as six) combining repeated riffs, including pedal steel and tenor guitar. And there are a wide variety of drums and percussion, including talking drums. The CD cover shows 12 musicians, including Ade.

Ade sings (in Yoruba) and is answered by a male chorus at various points. Other parts are instrumental. Even with all the drums and guitars the music has an easygoing, light feel. The guitars have none of the distortion of Western rock, and the percussion is mostly hand drums that are never overwhelming.

The first three songs are the A and B sides of the 1982 album Gbe Kini Ohun De (Brought That Thing Out). They are 18.5 (A side) and 10.5 and 8 minutes long (B side), making this a "jam" record ahead of its time.

The other six tracks are from the 1983 release Synchro Series. Between the two CDs, Ade had recorded for Island Records in an unsuccessful attempt to market him as a replacement for the recently deceased Bob Marley.

These six tracks are less freeform and show Ade's awareness of the recording studio. The drums are separated between the channels and some are brought forward in the mix, making it easier to differentiate them. The guitars also seem to be better positioned for recording. The songs are shorter. One, a solo of a talking drum, is only 40 seconds long. Another, a minute and a half, has only Ade's voice backed by drums and percussion.

This is a fine representative of the uplifting music of King Sunny Ade.

by Dave Howell
2 June 2007

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