Dele Abiodun

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This Nigerian artist made his name fusing juju and afrobeat, which he dubbed adawa.
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b. 30 March 1948, Bendel, Nigeria. Resisting his parents’ plans for a career in medicine, ‘Admiral’ Dele Abiodun used his school fees to enrol at the Young Pioneers College in Accra, Ghana. Here he immersed himself in highlife music, playing bass in several bands, before returning to Nigeria in 1969 and basing himself in Lagos. He founded his own band, Sweet Abby And The Tophitters, who played Ghanaian-style highlife and then a tough and idiosyncratic fusion of juju and afrobeat that Abiodun dubbed adawa (translated as ‘independent being’). The new style immediately attracted a large audience throughout Nigeria, and Abiodun has adhered to it, with occasional modifications, throughout his career. His first album, Kino Mo Ko Soke Yi, was released in 1971. Eschewing the established juju practice of releasing four or five albums a year, Abiodun chose to release just one album a year, free of the sponsorship of local dignitaries and politicians. As a result, he has never achieved the superstardom of his peers King Sunny Ade or Ebenezer Obey, but has built up a loyal following and maintained substantial record sales throughout the ensuing decades. He toured the UK for the first time in 1974.

In 1984, Abiodun refined the adawa sound to include western elements such as electroclaps and drum machines, while also deepening the African base of his music with an expanded drum and percussion section. The new approach was introduced with 1984’s It’s Time For Juju Music and came to maturity with the following year’s Confrontation. He has continued performing throughout the 90s and into the new millennium. While Confrontation remains his most compelling album to date, 1989’s Current Champion is also an essential set in any representative juju collection.