Olatunji’s Lasting Legacy

Babatunde Olatunji - Olatunji! Drums of Passion: Legacy Edition
Babatunde Olatunji – Olatunji! Drums of Passion: Legacy Edition

Babatunde Olatunji

Olatunji! Drums of Passion: Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy, 2009)

Celebrating the Nigerian drummer and percussionist Babatunde Olatunji, Columbia/Legacy has released the two-CD set Olatunji! Drums of Passion: Legacy Edition. The re-release of Olatunji’s Columbia recordings Drums of Passion (1959) and More Drums of Passion (1966) is a drumming extravaganza, complete with the original recordings, booklet with fabulous photographs and eight bonus tracks. With tracks that sound as fresh as they did when they first rolled off the presses, Olatunji! Drums of Passion: Legacy Edition proves that Babatunde Olatunji hasn’t lost any bit of the hypnotic lure that mesmerized fans.

The 1959 Drums of Passion was the first recording of traditional West African music ever in North America. With that and subsequent recordings Mr. Olatunji not only captured fans with his stellar skill but drew a number of fans and collaborators like John Coltrane, Mickey Hart and Carlos Santana. It comes as no surprise listening to stunning tracks like “Oya,” “Jin-Go-Lo-Ba” and “Kiyakiya” on disc one. “Oyin Momo Ado” will raise the hairs on the back of your neck it’s so good. Bonus tracks on disc one include the meaty “Nenu Di Ye Jewe” and a jaunty version of “Jolly Mensah” that includes Everett Barksdale and Al Schackman on guitar, W. Lee on bass and Clark Terry on trumpet, as well as the fabulous “Menu Diyeh” as Mr. Olatunji is joined by Ray Barretto on conga and timbales.

Disc two, More Drums of Passion, is just as spectacular with “Ayinde,” the deliciously quirky “Mbira” and the fiery Frekoba,” which has to be one of the most breath-taking eight minutes twenty-two seconds of drumming. The bonus tracks include the jazzy “African Waltz,” suffused with a wind and brass section that includes Clark Terry and Snooky Young on trumpet, Jerome Richardson on piccolo and tenor saxophone, Hosea Taylor on flute, oboe and tenor saxophone, A. “Bud” Johnson on baritone saxophone, Seldon Powell on aloto saxophone and Robert Brookmeyer and Dick Lieb on trombone. It really escapes me as to why this splendid track was never released. Other bonus tracks include “Hail the King” and “Saturday Night Limbo.”

Fans get a further treat and a look into the influence of Drums of Passion with Legacy’s free, multi-episode podcast available at http://podcasts.legacyrecordings.com.

In the big scheme of things there can be no real way to quantify the overwhelming influence this simply stunning percussion has had, but it takes only a listen to see how these two recordings propelled fans, music and musicians in a whole new direction. The only advice I can offer is to listen and enjoy because Olatunji! Drums of Passion: Legacy Edition will leave you thoroughly sated and pleasantly exhausted.

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Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.


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