Babatunde Olatunji, a renowned percussionist, and drummer, is the first Nigerian to win a Grammy Award. He won the prestigious award for Best World Music Album, “Planet Drum,” in 1991.
He was born in Ajido, near Badagry, in 1927 and grew up in a family that valued traditional African music. He then studied at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, in the United state, where he formed his first band and started singing at local clubs.
Olatunji took a quantum leap in the 1950s when he joined the legendary jazz pianist John Coltrane’s band and recorded several albums with him. He also released several solo albums, including “Drums of Passion,” which became a worldwide hit in the 1960s and helped popularize African music in the West.
In 1991, Olatunji won a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album for his album “Planet Drum,” which he recorded with a group of percussionists worldwide, including Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart. The album was a critical and commercial success, and it helped to solidify Olatunji’s legacy as one of the most influential African musicians of the 20th century.
Olatunji continued to perform and record music until he died in 2003. He is remembered not only as a talented musician but also as a cultural ambassador who helped spread African music and culture worldwide.