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Circle of Drums

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Album Review

Recorded in 1993 but only released in 2005, two years after his death, it's a mystery why this sat in the vault for so long. Here the Nigerian master drummer collaborates with Sikiru Adepoju and Muruga, and the results are as good as anything he released in his prime during the 1960s. He can conjure up a groove out of nothing, making it flow and ebb, while the drummers talk to each other with their instruments. It's not quite all percussion, however, as the one-string ektar fiddle, synth, chants, and even (surprisingly) hammered dulcimer enter the mix. Each of the six tracks gets time to develop, and it's the kind of disc that will have listeners performing workouts on their bodies (keeping up, however, is a different matter). It's readily apparent just how good these guys were during this session, making it sound so easy. Olatunji might no longer be with us, but on this disc he leaves a strong legacy.


Born: 1927 in Ajido, Nigeria

Genre: World

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Nigerian-born drummer Michael Babatunde Olatunji grew to international fame beginning in the late '50s with his groundbreaking 1959 Capitol Records debut Drums of Passion. The album was a huge hit, remaining in print for decades and standing as one of the first examples of the American record-buying public taking an interest in international music. Jazz kingpin John Coltrane took a particular liking to Olatunji's music, and the two became friends, eventually going so far as to collaborate on the...
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Circle of Drums, Babatunde Olatunji
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