Groundbreaking Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji, who helped introduce the power and intricacy of African music to the United States, died April 6 in San Salinas, Calif., of diabetes complications He was 75.
His 1959 album, “Drums of Passion,” was the first album of African drumming recorded in stereo in an American studio and introduced a generation to African music and the power of the drums.
Olatunji’s slaps on the djembe and junjun drums infused American black culture with a sense of artistic pride in traditional African music, as one critic put it.
Olatunji went on to found the Center for African Culture, based in Harlem, in the late 1960s. He taught drummers and other artists, such as John Coltrane. Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart co-founded the musical troupe Planet Drum with Olatunji and credits him as a major influence.
He studied at New York U. and soon formed an African-style ensemble that became his full-time occupation.
His most recent album, “Love Drum Talk,” was released in 1997 and was nominated for a Grammy.
He is survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters.