Babatunde Olatunji was a Nigerian master of the djembe drum who came to the attention of western audiences in the '60s with his album Drums of Passion of traditional Nigerian drumming and chanting. Reportedly his music was inspirational to John Coltrane as his music became more ‘cosmic’ and afrocentric in the end phases of his career.

Olatunji originally came to America in the early '60s to study medicine. He only released four albums in his prime from 64-67. Olatunji recorded again in the late '80s on the Blue Heron label with The Beat Of My Drum, a release featuring a 17-piece band that included Carlos Santana and Airto Moreira. He subsequently recorded more sessions for Rykodisc, including a digital remix of Drums of Passion. He also worked extensively with Mickey Hart during this period on his albums Planet Drum and Over The Edge And Back.

Olatunji was well respected as a teacher as well and the number of drummers he influenced and taught is unknowable. He died on April 6, 2003 at his home in Salinas, CA. I believe he was more than 80 years old at the time.

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