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Circle of Drums by Babatunde Olatunji

Babatunde Olatunji never dies. His music is vibrantly alive as his spirit! The sounds of his drumming still echo and haunt the nights of his original Nigeria. This is definite proof of how African music has now influenced all musical styles for centuries. Even in Europe, African music has strong influence, because the rhythms and musicians are still inspired by Baba.

Babatunde Olatunji, Muruga Booker, and Sikiru Adepoju are aboriginal African drummers and music innovators with a very humble way of seeing life. This has made legends out of them. I've said aboriginal because to be an "African drummer" is a pleonasm, as drums are the language of love, religion and communication in their continent. Their style is so unique that they are a reference for many musicians. Their life is charged with spirituality, and a search for humanity is very particular to each one of them.

The music is very poignant and everyone will feel transported by their sounds and the voices that sing with them. African music is all about family; all about traditions. Roots are strong questions for them, and in so doing has made these people pioneers in everything. Jazz was born from the expression of their souls. In fact, they are not poor; they are extremely rich in magic and human exchange.

This last recording (released after Baba passed away) is a nice homage to this great man and his music. John Coltrane, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones...so many great jazz players and composers were touched by Baba!

Baba was also an educated man, humble and able to serve the cause of African music, breaking barriers between black and white music. Everyone concerned with what is the power of drum calls and their influence in jazz should listen to this recording. It is a masterpiece of music and love.

Olatunji was a poet who had never forgotten his origins and was able to show humbly his style and voice to many musicians. His erudition attracted even charismatic figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Through his big bands and Afro-band arrangements, he was and will always remain in memory the person from whom African culture was orchestrated. Babatunde widely popularized the African drums everywhere and made a tremendous impact in jazz. This man wore his heart in his hands and still shines in the sky of the jazz stars!

Sikiru Adepoju is a master of talking drums and other indigenous percussion instruments. Babatunde Olatunji’s ensemble and Sikiru's friendship-cooperation lasted for a 17-year period. He is the founder of the wonderful ensemble Afrika Heart, a blend of great percussion.

Muruga Bookeris is also a master of drums and percussion and played for the famous group "Weather Report." This man holds a very special spirituality, in that he transfers (through his music) peace, love and harmony. He can swing in many voices, going from funk to free. Shakti Booker, his wife, brings a spiritual touch with her wonderful voice. James Gurley mastered his stringed ektar and gives a special touch to the drum sounds. Harry Ely's hammered dulcimer accentuates the deep voices of talking drums and chanting. This music can be heard and felt in the same way that Babatunde played and lived...humanly, giving mixture with poetry...Babatunde Olatunji never dies...

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Babatunde Olatunji
  • CD Title: Circle of Drums
  • Genre: World Music
  • Year Released: 2005
  • Record Label: Chesky Records
  • Tracks: Stepping, Incantations, Dawn, Embracement, Ascencion (Igoke), Cosmic Rhythm Vibrations
  • Musicians: Babatunde Olatunji (ashiko, djembe, ngoma drums, vocals), Sikiru Adepoju (gudugudu, shekere, talking drum, cowbell, clay drums), Muruga (nada drum, drum set, large floor tom, synthesizer), James Gurley (ektar), Shakti (female vocals), Harry Ely (hammered dulcimer).
  • Rating: Five Stars
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