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Re: Babatunde Olatunji
I was fortunate to have played with Babatunde Olatunji for a couple of
years, at shows on the west coast. He had enormous heart and great wisdom
born of an amazing lifetime, spent bringing the rhythms, culture and spirit
of his native Nigeria to the western world. Baba spent the last year or so
of his life at Eselen Institute, in Big Sur, on the most breathtaking
stretch of Hwy 1 you can imagine. It was to me, most fitting that a man of
his beauty and grace, spent his last days surrounded by love ones and
extended family, on this serene piece of California coast.
I remember a gig at Eselan with him where I decided to play lap steel
guitar (partly because there were three other guitarists on the gig and I
was trying to find a place to fit in) I figured I'd play really subtlety
and blend in to the swirl of guitars and drums. Baba, who by this time was
nearly blind from cataracts, turned and waved his hand in my direction and
demanded that I turn up! For the rest of the night he would periodically
turn and gesture for me to step out. And I remember driving to the gig
wondering If I would even get a solo!
Baba would always take time during his concerts to talk to the audience,
and he always had something simple, eloquent and profound to say. The
messages were often about love and compassion, and building bridges through
music. In this respect, He was an architect of the highest order.