He is a pioneer of modern world music.
He was born Otunba Sunday Ishola Adeniyi Adegeye to a royal family in Ondo state, thus making him an Omoba of the Yoruba people.
His father was a church organist, while his mother was a trader. Adé left grammar school in Ondo under the pretense of going to the University of Lagos. There, in Lagos, his mercurial musical career started.
Sunny Adé’s Musical Sound has evolved from the early days. His career began with Moses Olaiya’s Federal Rhythm Dandies, a highlife band. He left to form The Green Spots in 1967. Over the years, for various reasons ranging from changes in his music to business concerns, Sunny Adé’s band changed its name several times, first to African Beats and then to Golden Mercury.
In the 1970s and 1980s Sunny embarked on a tour of America and Europe where Adé played to mixed (both Black and White) audiences. His stage act was characterised by dexterous dancing steps and mastery of the guitar. Trey Anastasio, American guitarist, composer and one of his devout followers, once said, “If you come to see Sunny Adé live, you must be prepared to groove all night.”
When Adé headlined concerts in the United States, The New York Times’s Robert Palmer described one of Adé’s several concerts in New York in the 1980s one of the most significant pop music events of the decade and Adé as “one of the world’s great band leaders”. His second album under the cusp of international stardom was Synchro System which attracted many converts of world music and earned him a Grammy nomination in the folk/ethnic music category.
Sunny has collaborated with major artists such as Manu Dibango (WAKAFRIKA) and Stevie Wonder (played harmonica in Aura).
Sunny Adé’s brief recordings with Island records opened the floodgates for other world music artist like Senegalese Youssou N’Dour, Mali’s Salif Keita and a host of others.