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King Sunny Ade: Seven Degrees North

In the ’80s, King Sunny Ade enacted a kind of benevolent overthrow of the world music scene, spreading his joyous juju gospel internationally. He kept on grooving, stoking the flames of his music and also taking an activist role in the Nigerian political scene, but Ade slid away from that brief superstar status in the West.

His latest release, Seven Degrees North (Mesa 91100; 68:10), takes no fundamental detours away from the signature sound I loved then and now: the bubbling percussion, chattering guitars, surreal pedal steel swoops and kindly charisma of the leader are in place, as expected, but it’s his finest and most uniformly inspired domestically released recording in many years. The title refers to the geographical location of Lagos, Nigeria, and the album itself is dedicated to “the people of Nigeria for their determination, good humor, indomitable spirit and their unfailing faith in working towards a better future.” The songs, sung in Yoruba, deal with issues of spiritual faith and hope for better social conditions, but always lean towards the positive, in synch with the sonic spirit of this music. In Ade’s band, as in his ideology, subtlety, cheer and the common good rule.

Originally Published