All About Jazz

Home » Musicians » Babatunde Olatunji

Babatunde Olatunji

Babatunde Olatunji - African Drums (1927-2003)

Before there was world beat music, before there was Afropop or any of the other genres of African music marketed to Western audiences, there was Babatunde Olatunji. Olatunji's 1959 “Drums of Passion” album may have been the first African music release recorded in a modern U.S. studio. That album and its successor “Zungo!” proved extremely influential in the world of progressive 1960s jazz, helping to introduce saxophonist John Coltrane and other jazz players to African music. Olatunji himself made the United States his home and became a durable and enthusiastic ambassador of West African culture

A member of the Yoruba ethnic group, Olatunji was born in 1927 in the Nigerian village of Ajido, about forty miles from the capital of Lagos. His father was a fisherman. Traditional Yoruba drumming accompanied many of the events of village life, and Olatunji was taken by his great-aunt to hear drum ceremonies. The drummers celebrated every occasion, proclaimed the coming of local politicians, evoked the dreams and aspirations of their people. The drumbeat of his childhood became the life blood of his adult experience as Olatunji grew and traveled throughout the world popularizing the music of his Yoruban heritage.

While still in Africa in the late '40s, the ever resourceful Olatunji read about the Rotary International Foundation scholarships offered to youths from war-affected countries. By 1950, Olatunji and his cousin were each awarded a scholarship and were on their way to America to attend school in Atlanta, Georgia. Olatunji came to the U.S. determined to succeed in the international arena, at the time he had no aspirations to be a musician.

Read more

Tags

Album Review
Read more articles

Albums

Album Circle of Drums by Babatunde Olatunji

Circle of Drums

Chesky Records
2006

buy
 

Circle Of Drums

M.A.T. Music Theme Licensing GmbH
2005

buy
 

Love Drum Talk

M.A.T. Music Theme Licensing GmbH
1997

buy
 

Dance To The Beat Of...

M.A.T. Music Theme Licensing GmbH
1986

buy
 

Drum Shots

M.A.T. Music Theme Licensing GmbH
1974

buy
 

Soul Makossa

M.A.T. Music Theme Licensing GmbH
1973

buy

Similar

Manu Dibango Manu Dibango
saxophone
Obo Addy Obo Addy
drums
Fela Kuti Fela Kuti
trumpet

Shop Amazon

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.