Perhaps the most appropriate definition of him may read like this: Sunny Neji is to highlife music what the air means to a living thing and that is putting it mildly. From ample evidences replete in the history books, the truth is highlife chose him and not the other way. After giving so much to the development and retention of the genre, the artiste can now recline with a complacent smile and tell himself that he sold highlife music to the youths of today and opened the floodgates to a global reception of the art form. Suffice it to say his humble contribution has turned highlife music now more than any other time in the history of Nigerian music as a truly popular music.

Sunny Neji represents the link between the old and the new breed of highlife musicians. When our music was in dire need of a clear direction and was caught between the undiluted local variant and a pop influenced alternative, Sunny was there and worked hard to chart a course that favoured us as a people in the world stage. And that effort has paid off in mindboggling dividends. Today we hold our heads high and the young ones can have a music that they can be proud of and even live off handsomely with flourishing careers. No one best embodies this struggle or is more deserving of this honour of being celebrated for this milestone achievement than the world famous Mr. Fantastik, Sunny Neji.
He is a world-class vocalist capable of holding his own amongst the best not with his generation but the world but that is not the only reason why he is called Mr. Fantastik. Sunny Neji writes and produces music that strikes a perfect balance between sophistication and accessibility, and performs them with awesome finesse and impact. Through the course of a number of successful albums and a couple of special projects singles and collaborations, Sunny Neji’s career has witness an astronomical growth, cutting across tribe, class and age.

Sunny Neji’s active involvement with music began at an early age in 1987, he ventured into recording, earning a reputation in the jingle production scene in no time. 1991 brought the release of his debut, ”Captain” on EMI. It was however his 1997 sophomore set, ”Mr. Fantastik” that was to firmly establish him as a bona fide star. The album was a huge success and won for him numerous awards and he came to be recognised as one of Nigeria’s top all round artiste. After narrowly escaping the January 27, 2002 Ikeja bomb explosion, Sunny Neji raised his golden voice in a piercing call for support for victims with the single, ”Victims of Circumstance” and the massive benefit concert at the Lagos Television grounds to mark the first anniversary of the event. The project opened a new chapter of social responsibility in the career of the artiste.

He went on to release ”Unchained”, his fourth album on OJez Music which featured the smash hits, ”Oruka” and ”Face Me”, and on the strength of that album, the demand for the multiple award-winning artiste reached unprecedented heights and also installed him as one of the most recognised icons of Nigerian music. These are at best only a few pages in the glowing career of Mr. Fantastik which spans the best part of a little above thirty solid years.

Words by Felix Smuv Abattam

Extracted from Mystreetz Magazine ( Cynthia Morgan’s edition )

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