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Spin the Globe reviews, June 2003

KING SUNNY ADE - THE BEST OF THE CLASSIC YEARS
#66034 Shanachie, 37 East Clinton Street, Newton, NJ 07860
www.shanachie.com

 

KING SUNNY ADE - SYNCHRO SERIES
#0004 IndigeDisc, 1803 Pine Street, Suite 2F, Philadelphia, PA 19103
www.indigedisc.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the early 1970s, nighttime Lagos was awash with the sounds of juju music - the sound of traditional Nigerian music meeting electric guitars and other new instruments. Bands tried to trump their rivals by innovating new grooves and adding new instruments (accordion, slide guitar), and each innovation became known as a "system." Featuring some tracks previously available only on Nigerian vinyl, these two CDs include two versions of "Synchro System" recorded a decade apart, allowing a fascinating glimpse into the musical changes taking place.

The Shanachie CD features music from 1969-1974, including the 18-minute original version of "Sunchro System," a slow, groovy daydream of a song with vocal chants over deep electric bass, percussive guitar, and sparse drumming. "Sunny Ti De" features a lead guitar that wouldn't sound out of place in a surf band, but for the talking drums backing it up. The rest of the CD features long, patient songs with delicious, innovative guitar and percussion.

The IndigeDisc release compiles onto a single CD two later Ade albums. Gbe Kini Ohun De (1982) and Synchro System (Mango, 1983) show the band around the time of their international debut. The 1982 tracks are more laid back, with guitar, talking drum, and vocals taking center stage. The 1983 tracks, starting with "Ota Mi Ma Yo Mi," emphasize a darker, deeper groove, sounding at times like the Afrobeat of fellow Nigerian Fela Kuti. This version of "Synchro System" ups the energy level, with synthesizer and more drumming. If the original version was a lazy afternoon daydream, this one is a latenight imperative to dance. The increasing emphasis on percussion may not be surprising, given the rising popularity at the time of fuji music, a return to roots of Nigerian drums and vocals. Added, of course, to the influence of Ade's new American record label, which was billing him as "the African Bob Marley." The CD closes with "Ja Fun Mi Dub," something of a tribute to the Jamaican dub tracks, and an unlisted, untitled 40-second talking drum piece.

Neither release includes much in the way of track notes or artist credits, though the liner notes do put the music into historical context. But both CDs present an engaging musical history of this African great, and one of the pioneers of "world music." And stay tuned, 'cause IndigeDisc plans to release another CD of Ade's music in the 1980s-1990s.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens



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