Thursday, April 10, 2014

King Sunny Ade: Live Live Juju

As stated here before, a true concert highlight, among hundreds, experienced by YHB was a 1984 pairing of reggae giants Black Uhuru and the Nigerian juju artist King Sunny Ade.  This was basically the first time hearing music outside of American and English sources and it was a powerful performance with King Sunny's ensemble featuring some twenty musicians and dancers and putting on an uplifting show, combining traditional African drumming and singing with Western instrumentation and grooves, including some spacey keyboard flourishes.

It is also hard to imagine more of a contrast than between the lighter, more playful sounds of King Sunny and the denser, funkier, angrier and more controversial work of Fela Kuti, whose work has been highlighted before.  The question isn't: who's better?  Rather, it is acknowledging (perhaps not unlike comparing Cecil Taylor and Keith Jarrett in the jazz world) the differences and appreciating the varied forms of artistry.

King Sunny had his heyday in America in 1983-84, when he toured to support releases on Island Records, but, by the time Live Live Juju was released in 1988 by Rykodisc from a Seattle show the prior year, his "fifteen minutes" had passed him by.  You wouldn't know it from this excellent album, though, as it features Ade and his band moving through a number of fine pieces, including "Ase," "Maajo," "Moti Mo" and a medley of "E Ba Dupe/F'Oluwa and Sunny Loni Ariya."

As noted in the liners, what this album (and the Live at the Hollywood Palace recording from a few years later) provides is the lengthier, funkier workouts found on Ade's Nigerian albums but edited and repackaged in ways more accessible, presumably, to Western listeners on his Island albums.  Particularly enjoyable in this sense, especially for those who love African percussion, are the longer drum workouts that resound with the intensity, volume and power that is well recalled from the concert that took place a full three decades ago.

By 1987, when this was recorded, King Sunny may have been dropped by Island and the wave that carried him to some notoriety had long receded back to sea, but his sound was still top-notch and Live Live Juju provides ample documentation of the greatness that he and his band possessed.  Long live the King!

No comments:

Post a Comment