• July 22, 2019

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

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 


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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
)
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