NAMSA Brings Baba Olatunji Alive On Award Night(Photos)

It was July 10, 2017. On this day ALEDEH wrote on the coming NAMSA award in the city of Boston. The name “Baba” alone resonates so much love and influence here in the United States, sadly, only a few know about the greatness of Baba Olatunji.

Nigerian International Music star said to ALEDEH “99% of Nigerians don’t know Olatunji or how influential he was in the Jazz scene. He played with and mentored the greats like Miles Davis and John Coltrane and also gave Santana one of his biggest hits ever “Jingo”. So, determined to bring this maestro back home, ALEDEH worked closely with the organisers of the maiden edition of the Olatunji Prize for Arts and Culture. NAMSA an acronym for the Nigerian American Multi-Service Association pulled lovers of African music and art and even the family of Baba Olatunji to the Snowden Auditorium in UMASS Boston, the United States on August 26.

Finding the Snowden Auditorium took a bit of time due to the massive rehabilitation and construction going on at the University of Massachusetts. NAMSA made their first point clear as the event went on as scheduled. “African Time” had no place on that day.
For an award which is named after legendary African drummer, educator, social activist, recording artist, and cultural ambassador Babatunde Olatunji, it was understood why without any prompting almost everyone came in the colourful African attires. The super rich music spiced with the break out sessions by the young minds made it an evening to remember till the second award.

Dr Barry Gaither a Former Adviser to President George Bush and Iyafin Amybelle Olatunji

Godwin Nnanna is the head of NAMSA and he said the award will be bestowed annually upon artists whose works exemplify the best of African, Afro-Caribbean and African American arts and culture.

Godwin Nnanna, NAMSA President

So when the winner was announced we were able to gauge the overwhelming acceptance from the ovation by the crowd.

Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo emerged winner of the star prize. Iyeoka, a first-generation Nigerian American was a practising pharmacist before launching her musical career. She began her musical career by founding the group The Rock by Funk Tribe, a collective of musicians that enabled her to interweave her poetry with jazz, blues, funk, and gospel.

Iyeoka Ivie Okoawo With Iyafin Amybelle Olatunji

See More Faces At The Awards

Sade Olatunji And Mother

Grand Children Of Baba Olatunji

Lanre Olusekun

Prof. NJ Unaka With The Olatunjis

Iyafin Amybelle Olatunji With The Publisher of ALEDEH

Faces Of Other Winners With NAMSA Staff

While many came especially to America from Africa on a “slave-ship” Babatunde Olatunji came to America on an “education-ship” in 1950. Burning with a passion to study and become an ambassador, Mr Olatunji received a scholarship to attend the prestigious Morehouse College in Atlanta. He studied public administration at New York University, where he formed an African-style ensemble that eventually turned into his full-time occupation. He led an African ensemble that performed at concerts and civil rights rallies in the 50s. Some of his biggest were concerts and at civil rights rallies led by the Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. After the group appeared with an orchestra at Radio City Music Hall, Mr Olatunji was signed to Columbia Records. Mr Olatunji secured Foundation grants to tour schools. Among the students who were impressed by his performances, dressed in African attire and playing hand-hewn goat-hide drums was Mickey Hart, who would go on to join the Grateful Dead and later recharge Mr Olatunji’s career.

Young Baba Olatunji With His Wife Iyafin Amybelle

Baba and Wife

Baba’s birth place Ajido, Badagry, a fishing and trading village pervaded by Yoruba culture, saw many taken out through the slave routes in Nigeria. On his arrival in America, he made a style in his work to bring village memories to audiences everywhere. His band of drummers, singers and dancers evoked both the village’s music and its masquerades, with a huge size figure dancing in elaborate raffia costumes. His credo was: ”Rhythm is the soul of life. The whole universe revolves in rhythm. Everything and every human action revolve in rhythm.”

Just a day to his 77th birthday, Babatunde Olatunji, the Nigerian drummer, bandleader and teacher who was a tireless ambassador for African music and culture in the United States, died on Sunday in Salinas, Calif. He was 76 and lived at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, Calif.

Goodbye Photo With Mama Olatunji After Taking Us Down Memory Lane. She Wanted The Love Sign “Because Love Is Such A Powerful Force”

Mr Olatunji’s 1959 album, ”Drums of Passion,” was the first album of African drumming recorded in stereo in an American studio, and it introduced a generation to the power and intricacy of African music. While field recordings of African drumming had been available, ”Drums of Passion” reached a mass public with its vivid sound and exotic song titles like ”Primitive Fire.”

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