My mother celebrated her birthday yesterday, and thanks to the music festival I mentioned, finding a birthday present for her was easy: she was going to go see King Sunny Ade live! In the past four years this was my second time seeing him, and it was my parents’ third time seeing him in the 23 years we’ve been in Canada…not bad, I’d say, especially since we live on different continents.
The first time my parents went to see Sunny Ade, I was only seven or eight years old. I remember it only because it was the first time my parents hired a babysitter to look after us children (I was 8, my sister 6 and our brother not yet 2 years of age). My parents weren’t comfortable leaving us with babysitters, especially since we had only been in Canada for less than two years at the time, so if they couldn’t bring us to an event they didn’t go, or only one of them would go. My dad always says they never felt comfortable leaving “all that they had” (us) in the hands of a teenager who is probably more interested in what was showing on tv or talking on the phone than anything else. Anyway, it’s a testament to how much my mom must have wanted to see Sunny Ade because we had a babysitter for the first time.
I don’t remember much except that my brother almost fell into the toilet at one point during the evening, and was playing with the toilet water when my parents arrived. I was a tattle tale back then so I remember telling my parents about my brother’s toilet adventures and that was it for them for a long time: no more babysitters.
While at the concert, my parents invited Sunny Ade’s crew to our humble home to eat the following day. My mom prepared all the Nigerian heavy hitters food-wise for these musicians to eat, and they enjoyed it very well. I vaguely remember lots of people in the house and noise; nothing more, but it’s a memory that my mom recalls fondly.
In 2005 Sunny Ade came to Canada again. We were living across the country, and this time the Nigerian association here coordinated themselves well: my mom and other Nigerians got to dance on stage with him and they all sprayed him, Naija-style. The oyinbos at the concert (they sha almost outnumbered us) were just watching us and wondering, and a few people in the audience asked me what those people on stage were doing. After the concert, his musicians were working the audience. I remember one was seriously chatting my sister up.
What I thought was cute is my father is not one to get star struck. He’s very humble, he just doesn’t get excited about the things that my mom and I would be squealing about. So when my mom and I said we were going to try to see if we could meet Sunny Ade, he came along with us, but he thought it was ridiculous…until we were allowed to go on the tour bus and we see the man who had finished entertaining us sitting and looking very slight, humble, unassuming and welcoming. And see my normally reserved dad start to speak up! He introduced us, told Sunny Ade that they (he and the King) were from the same hometown and they starting yarning and it was just nice to see my dad so animated. My parents told him how they had hosted his musicians at their house so many years ago and he seemed to remember (but seriously I don’t know if he really did; it was about 18 years ago!). Anyway, it was another memorable experience.
And then…yesterday! We had a great position for viewing and dancing to the music…we were very close to the outdoor stage. The concert was great and we danced our hearts out, especially the birthday girl (my mom). She was dancing with one woman closer to the stage for a while, then she came to see us and by the time she looked on stage, the woman she had been with was just off the stage, gisting with the dancing girls while just a few feet away from Sunny Ade, who was performing! You should have seen the look my mom gave me before saying “Ahn ahn! Shebi that woman and I were dancing down here a minute ago. Can you believe she didn’t invite me to come join her back stage?” Lol! She caught the woman’s eye and waved to her and was mouthing the words but of course the woman was dancing her heart out and didn’t care.
And then, as God would have it (my mom loves to say that), after the concert was over, one of the musicians came to greet some of the audience, including our group. We asked if we could come backstage and just that easily, we were back there, waiting for Sunny Ade to get changed and come and greet us. While waiting we talked to the twins who were the dancing girls, and took pictures with them. Instead of saying cheese one twin told us to say “Mushin” â€” lol, but as you can see, it makes for some nice pictures (you can click to make them bigger).
King Sunny Ade came, and what a lovely man! He’s not a big man by any means; and if you passed him in the street and he was in plain clothes you wouldn’t look twice. There’s nothing flashy or over the top about him. Since I’m bigger than him, when we were taking a group picture I was standing behind him and he just put his arm around my waist and told me to move forward. So nice! (yes, I’m gushing). And this time when my dad told him his name, he seemed to recognize the name, if not the face (there aren’t many with our last name around, even in Nigeria). My mom took a picture alone with him and it will definitely be something to add to the photo album.
And that is the extent of our family’s interaction with King Sunny Ade. The man is still rocking at over 60…dancing the night away when even my feet were ready to quit. Good for him!
On my birthday, I played the following video for my mom because she loves it, but she didn’t think it was Sunny Ade singing until she saw the video. Enjoy! The song has a good message too.