Babatunde Olatunji


When I came to New York, social change was going on in the process and I was a part of that

Babatunde Olatunji,, October 2000

Babatunde Olatunji (April 7, 1927 – April 6, 2003) was a Nigerian drummer, educator, social activist and recording artist. He was a virtuoso drummer who became a sensation in the ’60s with his albums of traditional Nigerian drumming and chanting. A Yoruba, steeped in tribal culture, he established a group of expatriate African drummers, singers, and dancers with whom he performed and recorded. His first album, the 1959 worldwide bestseller Drums of Passion, introduced the intricate, powerful art of African drumming to a Western audience and transformed Olatunji into America’s best-known African musician. He influenced numerous jazz and pop musicians with his performances and teaching workshops. In 1985, Olatunji brought his rhythms to a new group of fans when he performed with the Grateful Dead, and during the 1990s he toured and recorded with the world-beat group Planet Drum.