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Babatunde Olatunji

Olatunji, Babatunde, 1927–2003, Nigerian drummer, b. Ajido. Educated in the United States, he graduated from Atlanta's Morehouse College in 1954 and studied at New York Univ. 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 best seller Drums of Passion, introduced the intricate, powerful art of African drumming and chanting 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.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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