Olatunji – Drums of Passion/More Drums of Passion

January 01, 1970

(Columbia/Legacy)

 

www.legacyrecordings.com

 

The first “world music” star arose in the West
before the term was even coined. In 1959, Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olatunji
entered a New York
studio with three fellow drummers and nine female singers. The resulting Drums of Passion became a left-field
hit, inspiring such diverse musicians as Miles Davis and Moe Tucker. Despite
its origins, Drums sounds like a
field recording. The material is mostly traditional chants, exalting holidays
(“Odun De! Odun De!”) or Nigerian deities (“Shango”). The drums
are indeed passionate, notably on the slow-building “Oya,” but often
just support the call-and-response vocals.

 

1966’s More Drums of
Passion
is richer and less pure. Five more drummers and sundry new timbres
enrich the troupe’s sound. Featuring faster cadences and more chiming tones,
such tracks as “Mbira” are intricate and intoxicating. This is no
longer strictly Nigerian music, but a pan-African blend whose appeal clatters
beyond mere exoticism. On most of the nine bonus tracks, various jazz players
pay heartfelt but inessential tribute to Olatunji’s breakthrough.

 

Standout Tracks: “Oya,” “Mbira” MARK JENKINS

 

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