Record of the Day: King Sunny Ade, "Juju Music"

Record of the Day: King Sunny Ade, “Juju Music”

King Sunny Ade and his African Beats
Juju Music (Cd Island 19712)

Spring has finally arrived (it's about time), and this album is certainly one of the best ways to celebrate the event, by virtue of its irrepressible rhythm that will put you in a good mood all day long.
Thanks to an experienced producer like Martin Meissonier, the Island label released this amazing album in stores in 1982 which stunned everyone who listened to it thanks to the insinuating and hypnotic charm of a music characterized by an enormous number of percussionists and the sound of steel guitars, which are normally associated with country music but which in this context have a completely different meaning.

Very popular in Nigeria, juju music is essentially intended for dance, but despite the deployment of percussion here
in action its character is anything but loud or intrusive. The Talking drums join the agogo and the shakers with rhythmic elasticity that is always of great class, sometimes (as in the songs “Eje Nlo Gba Ara Mi”, “Ma Jaiye Oni” and “Mo Bero Agba”) they move almost in a whisper without however descend the rhythmic groove by a millimeter, while Sunny Ade's light voice mixes with the instrumentalists' choirs with simple and circular melodies of great immediacy; every now and then some artificial sounds of keyboards and synthesizer also appear, but these are barely noticeable colors that do not disturb atmospheres that are completely immune to any pop influence and based exclusively on the rhythmic interaction between voices and instruments.

Moreover, the pieces are completely devoid of harmonic movement, essentially each piece is based on one or two chords, yet the skill of the musicians is such that no sensation of monotony appears while listening while it is almost inevitable to remain hypnotized by the continuous polyrhythmic figurations that these African Masters manage to create thanks to their extraordinary ability.
It seems that during their concerts in Africa King Sunny Adé and the band play for twelve hours straight without interruption
while the dancing audience throws banknotes at them to express their approval; even in the limited temporal dimension of a record the exciting and lively warmth of this music unfolds fully, giving us intense and auspicious aromas for the days to come.

Carlo Boccadoro, composer and conductor, was born in Macerata in 1963. He lives and works in Milan. He collaborates with soloists and orchestras in different parts of the world. He is the author of numerous books on musical topics.

This text is taken from “Lunario della musica: A record for every day of the year” published by Einaudi, courtesy of the author and the publisher.