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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: If you hear African pop music in the U.S., you can in part thank King Sunny Ade. Back in the 1980s, the Nigerian musician toured across the country, bringing his traditional vocals and percussion, blended with electric guitars and keyboards, a type of music called juju.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. KING SUNNY ADE (Musician): (Singing in foreign language).

BLOCK: King Sunny Ade was back on U.S. stages this summer, and our music reviewer Banning Eyre, the editor of afropop.org, met up with him as he recorded a new CD in a studio outside Philadelphia.

BANNING EYRE: It's been nearly a decade since King Sunny Ade released new music outside Nigeria. His touring band is a little smaller and younger, but based on what I heard in the studio, the music hasn't changed.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ADE: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: Something else that hasn't changed is Ade's playful commitment to musical ecstasy. Asked what he's up to with his new recording, he didn't miss a beat.

Mr. ADE: First of all, it's for the people to come to the dance floor. Let's do it together. Let's dance together. It is for you to draw your baby closer to you and then dance along with me because the whole world is full of stress. Let's blow it out. Let's allow the stress to go, at least for a while.

(Soundbite of laughter)

EYRE: After decades working the music scene in Lagos, one of Africa's biggest and toughest cities, Ade knows a thing or two about stress. One of his biggest headaches is Nigeria's music pirates who've perfected the art of flooding the market with cheap, inferior CD copies within days after a big release. Ade says he's given up fighting the pirates and now seeks to woo them to his side.

Mr. ADE: Instead of fight each other, sit down at a round table: Why do you do this? Actually, we don't call them pirates to their face. We call them special distributors.

EYRE: Whether this counts as tact, diplomacy or making the best of a hopeless situation, Ade's approach to piracy echoes his musical philosophy, which he calls his synchro system. It's all about cooperation, harmony and working together to create something beautiful.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ADE: (Singing in foreign language).

Unidentified Group: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: Ade formed his first band in 1967. He's made dozens of recordings since, but the real heart of his artistry is the way he connects with a live audience. His band can electrify a festival stage with deep grooves and graceful moves. But to really understand Ade's connection with Nigerians, you've got to experience one of his African parties, like the one he hosted this summer in a fluorescent-lit basement auditorium at a Brooklyn high school.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ADE: You're going to dance and dance and dance tonight.

EYRE: The audience was mostly well-heeled Nigerians who came to listen and dance but also to spray. That's when you go on stage and make an offering to the singer, generally cold cash pressed on the forehead.

Mr. ADE: They will come close to you, shower some money on you, and if they have a gift, they will tell you there is a gift. Some people can give cars, refrigerators, whatever, whatever.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ADE: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: At this Brooklyn party, Ade and his band didn't take the stage until 2 a.m., and when I left almost two hours later, they had been playing nonstop, without so much as a pause between songs. No cars or fridges were offered that night but loads of dollar bills and a few 20s and even 50s in the mix. Giving money to a musician is a way of showing off in a social setting, but Ade doesn't like it when things get competitive.

Mr. ABE: It can cause a row or a fight, and I don't want that. I want everybody to be my friend. That's why I don't sing political songs. I don't use my songs to abuse. I sing free song that we are all going to be happy.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ABE: (Singing in foreign language).

EYRE: Ade knows his audience, but he doesn't pander. Other African singers have changed their style to please foreigners and ended up losing the home crowd. Ade made his mark on juju music early on, but since then, he's resisted the fads and fashions of four tumultuous decades. That confidence and fidelity is what makes him a king, not a mere politician.

For NPR News, I'm Banning Eyre.

(Soundbite of music)

BLOCK: You can hear a concert by King Sunny Ade from his U.S. summer tour at nprmusic.org.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ADE: (Singing in foreign language).

Thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

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