6.4.2003: Babatunde Olatunji, a renowned Nigerian drummer who pioneered world music and influenced musicians such as Carlos Santana, Mickey Hart, John Coltrane and Bob Dylan, died Sunday at a Salinas hospital of complications from diabetes.
Mr. Olatunji, who would have celebrated his 76th birthday on Monday, had been living for the past year at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, where he was on the faculty.
"Rhythm is the soul of life. The whole universe revolves in rhythm. Everything and every human action revolves in rhythm." - Babatunde Olatunji
Babatunde Olatunji is "Master of Drums", a virtuoso of West African percussion. Born and raised in Nigeria, Olatunji was educated at Morehouse College in Atlanta and the New York University Graduate School. At Morehouse, he began performing informally, entertaining fellow students. As the demand for his music increased, he entered the professional music field.
In 1959, Columbia Records released Olatunji's first album, Drums of Passion, which became an unprecedented, worldwide smash hit. It was the first album to bring genuine African music to Western ears, and it went on to sell over five million copies. Olatunji has traveled the world for forty years spreading his music and African culture.
Thirty years ago, he founded the Olatunji Center of African Culture in the heart of Harlem and he has been a member of the faculties at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California and the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York for almost 15 years. At these institutions, as well as at innumerable workshops and festivals, Olatunji continues to pursue his strong commitment to spreading knowledge of African culture through the teaching of traditional drumming, dancing, and chanting in classes for adults and young people.
Olatunji received a Grammy Award in 1991 for his collaboration with Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart on their Planet Drum album. In addition, his composition "Jingo Lo Ba" has become a signature song for the rock group Santana. Olatunji also has written scores for Broadway and Hollywood productions, including the music for She's Gotta Have It, a film by Spike Lee.
In 1997, Chesky Records released love drum talk, which went on to be nominated for the 1998 Grammy for Best World Music Album. On it, Olatunji unleashes the rhythm of passion.
Olatunji leads an ebullient ensemble of guitarists, singers and, of course, percussionists through a series of spirited meditations on the nature of love. Lust, kinship, sensuality, courtship, and spirituality are the themes Olatunji uses to fuel his joyous, infectious playing. Source: olatunjimusic.com