King Sunny Adé & His African Beats, Bobby
According to a discography prepared by the admirable Mr. Endo, there were literally dozens and dozens of albums released by Nigeria’s leading exponent of juju music, King Sunny Adé, prior to Western audiences hearing his formidable admixture of talking drums, interleaved electric guitars and harmony vocals in 1982. His first album, Alanu Loluwa, appeared in 1967, recorded with the Green Spots Band. In the early ‘70s his musicians reconfigured as the African Beats and it was with a spit-polished version of the latter group that Adé made his bid for international acceptance in the early ‘80s via three releases — Juju Music, Synchro System and Aura — on the Island label (op cit. Pablo Lubadika Porthos, Idie).
Yet while Adé barnstormed North American rock sheds promoting albums tailored for crossover acceptance, he continued to record and release albums cut from markedly different cloth for his Nigerian constituency. Several of these will feature on this page in weeks to come.
Bobby, the subject of today’s post, kicks off our spin through a charmed era of Nigerian pop. The album appeared in 1983, one of a half-dozen albums issued by King Sunny Adé and his African Beats during that year; he and his band toured constantly through this period as well. ‘Prolific’ doesn’t half cover it.
Both sides of Bobby contain epic performances strung atop rudimentary drum machine patterns, possibly those of a Roland TR-66 taught polyrhythmic tricks. Side One is structured as a suite, per Adé’s long-established recording template. Side Two contains an extended eulogy in song to Bobby Benson, a bandleader, musical polymath and guiding light of Nigeria’s highlife scene, who had recently passed away. This recording is an altogether more relaxed-sounding affair, as was seemingly always the case with Adé’s Nigerian releases. There is none of the occasional stridency of his Island lp’s, and the lack of compression in the record’s mix enables something like a sensation of intimacy (or the nearest equivalent possible from a band with eighteen members).
Bobby also features that shiniest of diadems in King Sunny’s crown, the pedal steel guitarist Demola Adepoju. The latter’s only solo lp, rare like winning lottery tickets aren’t, will be the subject of a post in the very near future. Please stay tuned.