Babatunde Olatunji / April 7, 1927 - April 6, 2003

The Nigerian percussionist, teacher and activist Babatunde Olatunji helped bring African rhythms to the greater music world. His 1959 album for Columbia, Drums Of Passion, became a staple on hi-fis all over the world. His bands included amazing jazz musicians like Yusef Lateef, Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Pat Patrick, Marshall Allen, Horace Silver, Charles Lloyd, Airto and others. He played with the Grateful Dead and made all kinds of music from huge ensembles of drummers and folkloric musicians to jazz and soul.

As a guest or sideman he played on records by Cannonball Adderley, Stevie Wonder, Max Roach, Mickey Hart, Richie Havens and others. Santana had a hit covering "Jingo". He toured with Martin Luther King, Jr and played with Bob Marley. He also produced music for film and Broadway.

In 1967 he opened the Olatunji Center for African Culture in Harlem, aided by his friends Sun Ra and John Coltrane. In fact, Coltrane's last ever performance was there and captured on an intense recording released by Impulse! Records.

Check out Olatunji's heavy funk record from 1973 called Soul Makossa where he covers the Manu Dibango classic with Joe Henderson and members of Miles Davis' band. The whole LP is insane! He remains one of the household names of African music.

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