©St. Louis African Chorus,
A Legend Passes On
by Fred Onovwerosuoke
Yes, friends, it's true. Babatunde Olatunji joined his ancestors on Sunday, April 6, 2003, at 7:30 am. Born 1927 in Ajido, Nigeria, "Baba" as many of us called him attracted the Western to the "African sound". His collaboration with the band Grateful Dead earned him a Grammy Award in 1991. Way before then his first album Drums of Passion (Columbia Records, 1959) had perked many ears for the intricate rhythms of Africa. His noted influence on John Coltrane became pivotal in Western appreciation for African music and opened doors for many other African musicians. Today we credit Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Miriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Mor Thiam, Camara, along with Fela Sowande and Kwabena Nketia and many others who have given varied voice to African music. "Baba" Olatunji however sets the pace in broad collaboration and infusing what he called the African Spirit into many genres of music. Sun re o, Baba (Rest calm). You will be sourly missed.
Photograph, courtesy of Drums not Guns, online at http://www.drums.org/baba/