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  • Babatunde Lea (2010)

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    (Photo by Bill Evans)

    Incredible, but true: Babatunde Lea has been a percussionist for over four decades.

    After his family had relocated from Danville, Virginia, to Englewood, New Jersey, young ’Tunde was inspired by stories of a drum-playing aunt Gloria, the first woman in Virginia to play drums in a marching band.

    He later received independent verification that drumming was in the blood: at his school, you had to join a waiting list in order to get a drum—unless, that is, your name was "Lea", in which case you immediately got a drum. There was never a time when there wasn't a Lea in the drum line.

    ’Tunde's own drumming epiphany came at the age of 11 when a cousin took him to see Babatunde Olatunji's Drums of Passion at Cooper Union in New York City. As he himself put it, "That was such a tremendous occasion for me. When I came out, I had the worst headache I had ever had, because it seemed that I had concentrated with every pore of my body. … I was elated. 'I know who I am: I'm a drummer.'"

    After playing around NYC in the early ’70s, ’Tunde migrated to the Bay Area in 1977, where he found African drumming culture very much alive. Over the years since then, he's played with the likes of McCoy Tyner, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Randy Weston, Van Morrison, Oscar Brown jr, and Van Morrison.

    His latest project is a dedication to the late singer Leon Thomas, whom ’Tunde had met back in Englewood in the late 1950s; almost two decades later, ’Tunde would take up the drum chair in Thomas's band.

    He's a musical and spiritual activist, drawing on the African and Eastern premise that in everyday life there really is no separation between spirit, mind, body and music.
    Pick Artist Album Song Label
    # 1 Babatunde Olatunji Drums of Passion Akiwowo Columbia Legacy
    # 2 Cal Tjader Talking Verve: Roots of Acid Jazz Soul Sauce (Guachi Guaro) Verve
    # 3 John Coltrane A Love Supreme Acknowledgement Impulse
    # 4 Horace Silver Song for My Father Song for My Father Verve
    # 5 Eddie Palmieri Sueño Azucar Capitol/Intuition
    # 6 Kenny Garrett African Exchange Student African Exchange Student Warner Bros
    # 7 Wynton Marsalis Black Codes (From the Underground) Phryzzinian Man Columbia
    # 8 John Coltrane My Favorite Things My Favorite Things Atlantic
    Book Paramahansa Yogananda, "Autobiography of a Yogi"
    Luxury Item An ice-cream maker
    Castaways by date
    Chris Amberger
    23 Jun
    Gerald Beckett
    01 Sep
    Buzz Brooks
    28 Apr
    Jarrett Cherner
    16 Jun
    Kev Choice
    30 Jun
    Anat Cohen
    28 Jul
    Natalie Cressman
    10 Feb
    Hershey Felder
    07 Apr
    Mitchell Feldman
    18 Aug
    Mike Galisatus
    03 Nov
    Aaron Germain
    06 Jan
    Robin Gregory
    17 Feb
    Tamir Hendelman
    13 Oct
    Kasey Knudsen
    17 Mar
    Matthew Montfort
    26 May
    Dan Montgomery
    06 Oct
    Andrea Motis
    21 Jul
    Ray Obiedo
    10 Mar
    Jayn Pettingill
    17 Nov
    John Pizzarelli
    25 Aug
    Sandi Poindexter
    24 Mar
    Don Randi
    20 Oct
    David Rogers
    24 Feb
    Eric Whittington
    29 Sep
    George Winston
    04 Aug
    Lizz Wright
    09 Jun
    Jason Yeager
    02 Jun