‘COPYCATS’ MUST PAY ROYALTY — KSA
King of World Beats, Otunba Sunday Ishola Adeniyi-Adegeye a.k.a. King Sunny Ade, spoke with us about those playing his brand of music, Nigerian copyright law and other issues
Q: In the 1970s, you introduced a brand of music called Synchro System, which was hi-tech juju music. What informed the idea?
A: I decided to introduce Synchro System as my own identity. My music is quite different from Ebenezer Obey's, while his is also different from I. K. Dairo's. We all have musical identities.
Q: What is Synchro System?
A: Synchro System means my music is well synchronised. It was not my own initiative, it was originated by a friend called Lawyer Faloye, who, having listened to my music, advised that I introduced a hi-tech music. This is because my music was well synchronised. After this, I went to the drawing board and introduced a dance step called synchromatic dance.
Q: What did you have in mind when you were producing the music?
A: I thought the time had come then for me to do a new thing because I pioneered good music.
Q: Are you aware that other people play your brand of juju music and do you know them?
A: It is they that can say they are playing my kind of music. Thank God for that. Do you know why I said that? I adopted the Tunde Nightingale's style of music and I make bold to say it, but other people can't say such thing. Now that I have my own brand of music, other people who play the music should be in the position to say it aloud that they are performing like me.
Q: How do you feel when people sing your songs while performing in public?
A: Well, if they sing my song the way I play it, it means they have copied my music. That is, they are using my intellectual property.
Q: Don't you think by so doing, they see you as their role model?
A: Yes, I agree.
Q: Do you feel happy when you hear somebody performing your song in public?
A: I always feel happy about it. After all, I performed like others before me, before creating my own brand. I am always a happy man. It is also a thing of joy when somebody copies my music creatively. What I mean is that if you copied in a constructive way and people enjoyed what you've done, then you can improve. But above all, it is better for the person to seek my consent and he or she will be respected.
Q: Are you trying to say that the musicians who sing your songs and play your brand of music did not seek your consent before doing so?
A: Yes, that is part of the problems of our copyright law should deal with but the law is not effective. If you make them go through all that rigour right now, they will simply take you for somebody who does not want others to progress or reach greater height in their career.
Q: As a former chairman of the Music Copyright Society of Nigeria (MCSN), it is a known fact that anyone who performs other person's songs without permission must be sanctioned. How do you feel when your songs are used by others without paying you royalty, or are you paid at all?
A: No, they don't pay me royalty, but what we are now trying to do is to create awareness. We really need to do a lot of work on this because they don't believe they should pay for what they use, whereas in other countries, where copyright law is effective, you don't make any noise about this. The people know the right things to do.
Q: Will you then be happy if they pay you royalty?
A: Yes, I should be happy and I think I deserve to be given, but the question is: Can they pay? Do they have the financial capacity to do that?
Q: When you came out with Synchro System, Ebenezer Obey came out with Miliki and Dele Abiodun, Adawa. But we don't see such a trend in the music industry any longer. What is wrong?
A: I don't know why, but I can only speak for myself.
Q: You are 62 years old and Dele Abiodun is 60, while Sir Sina Peters is 50. Apart from the three of you, as pioneers, what is the future of juju music in Nigeria?
A: It depends on their interest. It also depends on their promoters, producers and distributors. You know juju music is very expensive to play. Having said that, your observation is not only peculiar to juju music and the music industry, even the banks have their own problems. All we need to do is promote coexistence among us.
Q: In the past, we knew that one of the major factors is that a juju artiste must handle the guitar, but these days, juju artistes rarely play this musical instrument. As a veteran, is it compulsory to play the guitar or not?
A: That also depends on the particular location and the show. For example, sometimes, I only play the guitar for a while. But guitar is a must in juju music.
Q: How can juju music be revived?
A: I don't buy the idea that juju music is dying, it is still there and all the musical instruments that bring out the sound still have relevance.
Q: Apart from the passion you have for the guitar, what else do you really have passion for?
A: What I love most in life is the guitar. It is my baby and life.
Q: How close are you to your guitar?
A: I prefer to be close to God than any other thing in life.
Q: Is that why you have been singing praise songs lately? Are you dumping juju for gospel like Ebenezer Obey?
A: Praise songs have always been synonymous with my music. From day one and from my debut single, Alaamu l'Oluwa, to date, nothing has changed. So, if you call me a gospel singer, it is okay by me and if you just say I am a juju artiste, you are not wrong. I combine both gospel and secular music.
Q: At 62, do you ever think of retiring from music some day?
A: I can never retire from music because it is in the blood.
Q: So, why do you love jazz music as a veteran juju artiste?
A: Oh, I am in love with jazz music. I love it so much.
Q: Which artiste(s) do you like in particular?
A: Any artiste that plays very good jazz music. I have played with many jazz musicians including Glover Washington, before he died as well Algero and others. Between 1964 and 2006, I performed during the jazz festivals. Sometimes, when it is close to the end of the show, I play some jazz.
Q: Does jazz have any influence in your music?
A: Oh yes, but you can't enjoy jazz music except you have good ears. It is called jazz because people don't really appreciate it, but consider it as nonsense. That is why people still find it difficult to come to terms with it.