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Babatunde Olatunji: 1927-2003
Babatunde Olatunji
Drums, bandleader

Born: 1927 in Ajido, Nigeria
Died: April 6, 2003 in Salinas, California

Ambassador for African music

Copyright © 2003 

Olatunji

Babatunde Olatunji was a Nigerian drummer, bandleader and teacher who did a huge amount to advance the cause of African music and culture in his adopted United States.

He grew up inNigeria, and arrived in America on a scholarship in 1950. His recordings, notably the ground-breaking Drums of Passion in 1959, brought the sound of African drumming to a new audience, and put Afro-jazz fusion firmly on the agenda.

He set up the Olatunji Center for African Culture in Harlem in the mid-60s, which offered children the chance to learn music and dance until it closed in 1988. Saxophonist John Coltrane played his last but one concert there in April 1967.

Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart (once a member of Olatunji's band) helped revitalise his career in the mid-80s, and he went on to record several more albums. He settled in California, and is survived by a large extended family.


JJA members are invited to submit a full obituary or appreciation.

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With 1 reader comment, posted June 3, 2004