1927 – Born in the small village of Ajido, Nigeria,
about forty miles from Lagos, the capital of the country. As a child,
his great aunt Toyin to hear the drums - hollowed out from trees and covered
with the skin of goats - punctuate the lives of his people.
1950 – Olatunji and his cousin were each awarded
a scholarship and were on their way to America to attend school in Atlanta,
1954 – After graduating from Atlanta’s Morehouse
College with a degree in Diplomacy, Olatunji moved to New York City to
begin a Political Science
postgraduate program in Public Administration at New York University.
To cover his expenses started a small drumming and dance group Insights
on the cultural divides between black and white Americans were the motivating
factor that brought Olatunji to begin performing the drumming of
his Yoruba ancestors.
1957 – Columbia Records producer John Hammond heard
Olatunji performing at Radio City Music Hall with a 66-piece orchestra.
This meeting led
directly to a recording contract and the recording of Drums of Passion
1959 – Olatunji’s first album Drums of Passion,
first album to bring genuine African music to Western ears, released by
It became an unprecedented, worldwide smash hit, selling over five million
copies and 50 million copies to date.
1963 – Join Martin Luther King for his March on
1964 – Olatunji performed at the African Pavilion
at the New York World Fair where he was able to raise enough money to
open the Olatunji Center
for African Culture (OCAC) in Harlem, offering classes in African dance,
music, language, folklore, and history. The NEA help to fund Olatuni’s
teacher and student training programs which went to all over the schools
in the New York tri-state area, all the way to Long Island. He drummed
at civil rights rallies along side Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X
and Nelson Mandela, but his musical activism also crossed racial identities
1993 – Awarded the All One Tribe Drumming Education
Award for his commitment to children, interracial harmony and education.
1996 – Cultural ambassador Baba Olatunji manifested
another of his goals by inviting thousands of drummers to congregate at
the Washington Monument, prior to Clinton’s Presidential Election
to participate in Drum Dance and Prayer for Peace.
1997 – Love Drum Talk, is last CD released was
nominated for a Grammy Award.
2003 (6 April) – Passed over to Ancestors.