One of the most common phrases used in news reportage is ‘shut down’. ‘Artiste X shut down such and such city…’
However, juju maestro King Sunny Ade, literally shut down the city of Lagos with the concert held in his honour of his 70th birthday.
For someone whose career has spanned 50 odd years, it was no surprise that all stops were pulled out by him and his management to hold a massive event, the like of which had not been seen before in Nigeria.
Dubbed ‘Sunny on Sunday’, the event was attended by KSA aficionados from years back, many of whom are now the creme de la creme of Nigerian society.
In attendance were Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote, billionaire Femi Otedola, former governor of Lagos and current Minister of Works, Power and Housing Babatunde Fashola and several other power brokers.
Younger celebrities such as Don Jazzy, Tiwa Savage, Waje, Omawumi, Toke Makinwa, Funke Akindele, Tee A, Lolo (the three of whom compered the event) Darey Art Alade, DJ Jimmy Jatt, Iyanya and dozens of others also turned up for KSA.
Following a succession of performances by Niniola, Terry Apala, Omawumi and Darey; ageless singer Onyeka Onwenu mounted the stage and gave a thrilling performance of she and KSA’s 1989 classic ‘Wait for me’. She was joined by the celebrant himself and the two of them finished to warm applause by the crowd.
They were soon followed by Congolese icon Awilo Longomba (who of course is a crowd favourite in Nigeria). He too was joined on stage by KSA and was shown some of Sunny’s electric dance moves.
But none of those compared to the frenzy in the audience when Sir Shina Peters took the mic and sang the praises of someone he called ‘father’. Again and again, he descended from the stage and shared a hug with King Sunny Ade.
It was after then that he took the crowd on a ride of his with Shinamania. Who else would have made Aliko Dangote try out a few juju dance steps if not Shina Peters?
The highlight of the night soon arrived: the auction of a Fender guitar, designed by Nigerian visual artist Victor Ehikhamenor. The bid started at a whooping N9m and in less than 10 minutes had been doubled, even tripled.
The guitar would end up been bought by an unidentified member of the audience at a jaw-dropping N52.1m (Fifty-two million, one hundred thousand naira … only)!
Only Sunny Ade can attract such eye-watering figures!
One would assume that after the auction, the tempo would slow down and people might start to disperse but it wasn’t so.
Only then – at quarter past one in the morning – did King Sunny Ade, at the advanced age of 70, climb the stage and give the first of his two performances.
He rolled back the years with his endless collection of classics. Who would have thought at his age – which his looks completely belie – KSA could still perform for one hour and twenty minutes straight!
And that was just the first performance. By the time he changed outfits and gave the second performance, it was well into the early hours of the morning.
As far as concerts go, Sunny Ade’s 70th birthday concert will not be forgotten in a hurry; the guests and the performances (and the record breaking auction) will be referenced anytime an artiste attempts to have a landmark event like that.
As far as celebrations go however, the celebration of a man who has been adored for much longer than many of us have been alive, is proof that his timeless music, his effervescent personality and his decades long artistry is what every musician should aspire to.
While performing, KSA paused at a point to thank all in attendance. ‘If I die today,’ he said, ‘you all have celebrated me already.’
Sunny need not worry. His music will outlive several generations and his legend will never be forgotten.
Long live the King!