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Babatunde Olatunji

Biography

Babatunde Olatunji came to the United States to study medicine and ended up becoming a musician. Forming a Nigerian folklore ensemble with the African expatriate community, he recorded the landmark album Drums of Passion in 1959. Much to his surprise, this recording of traditional drums and chants charted for years and made him very influential in Afro-centric circles; several other 1960s recordings did remarkably well. Adopted by the Grateful Dead as a spiritual icon, he received uncritical adulation from Deadheads, and he ultimately joined Mickey Hart to create the multiethnic superstar drum group Planet Drum. Olatunji has also established himself as an educator; as he says, "Rhythm is the soul of life." Olatunji died in 2003 at the age of 75.
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