Thursday, March 30, 2017

Babatunde Olatunji - 1959 - Drums Of Passion

Babatunde Olatunji 
Drums Of Passion

01. Akiwowo (Chant To The Trainman) 3:37
02. Oya (Primitive Fire) 5:35
03. Odun De! Odun De! (Happy New Year) 4:38
04. Gin-Go-Lo-Ba (Drums Of Passion) 3:11
05. Kiyakiya (Why Do You Run Away?) 4:15
06. Baba Jinde (Flirtation Dance) 5:30
07. Oyin Momo Ado (Sweet As Honeybee) 4:54
08. Shango (Chant To The God Of Thunder) 7:04

Baba Hawthorne Bey – drums
Roger "Montego Joe" Sanders – drums
Taiwo DuVall - drums
Chinyelu Ajuluchuku - vocals and dance
Ida Beebee Capps – vocals and dance
Afuavi Derby – vocals and dance
Akwasiba Derby – vocals and dance
Helen Haynes – vocals and dance
Dolores Oyinka Parker – vocals and dance
Delzora Pearson - vocals and dance
Ruby Wuraola Pryor – vocals and dance
Barbara Gordon– vocals and dance
Helena Walker – vocals and dance
Louise Young – vocals and dance

Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji enjoyed a rich musical legacy during his lifetime. He is credited as being one of the first musicians to bring genuine African music to Western ears en masse, having burst on the scene in 1959 with his debut, Drums of Passion. It was the first known album of traditional West African drumming and chants to be recorded in the United States (Olatunji moved to Atlanta in 1950 before relocating permanently to New York City), and was released during a high tide of political and cultural change-- including appearing alongside epochal jazz recordings by Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Charles Mingus, and Ornette Coleman. As listeners were exposed to different styles and the collective interest in world music and jazz continued to grow in popularity, Olatunji helped turn people's attention away from the corny melodies that dominated the exotica genre fad by offering authentic, captivating songs from his native homeland.

Olatunji frequently drafted a vivacious, disparate ensemble of musicians and vocalists to contribute to his recordings, and many of these people drifted in and out of the studio unknown and unaccredited. By its very nature, his music is designed to be performed by large groups-- it is this communal input that gives Drums of Passion its infectious vitality and relentlessly entertaining energy. The elated female and male chants on "Odun De! Odun De! (Happy New Year)" glide over a knot of polyrhythms, while the call and response vocals on "Baba Jinde (Flirtation Dance)" are injected with so many whoops and jeers that the song ends up sounding like a pack of copulating hyenas, pinned down by a surge of ecstatic Afro-Cuban rhythms.

"The spirit of the drum is something that you feel but cannot put your hands on," Olatunji once explained to an interviewer. "It does something to you from the inside out. It hits people in so many different ways, but the feeling is one that is satisfying and joyful." This zeal lay at the root of Olatunji's music, and is arguably felt more ferociously on Drums of Passion than any other of his many recordings. It may not be as immediately accessible as some of his later work, but in terms of improvisational liveliness and the sheer animation of his rhythmic phrasing and arrangements, it’s hard to beat. Over the last several decades, fans of world music have had access to a plethora of material from all over the globe. But it's worth retracing the steps to this virtuoso, who not only brought genuine West African music to popular attention but also influenced musicians such as Quincy Jones, the Grateful Dead, and Bob Dylan. Olatunji was a remarkable entertainer, whose impression on world music is as enjoyable and significant now as it was in the early 1960s. He has achieved a gold standard in music: Timelessness, and an ardor that does not simply simmer but glows fiercely, and joyfully, from within.

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