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Babatunde Olatunji

Decent Essays
The Nigerian drummer, Babatunde Olatunji, brought the traditions of African drumming to America while studying in New York, but it all started in Ajido, Nigeria where he was born. Babatunde Olatunji was born on April 7, 1927 in Ajido Nigeria. He was born in the family of the Yoruba Tribe, which was one of Nigeria’s largest ethnic groups. As a teen, Olatunji moved to Nigeria’s biggest city, Lagos, in order to attend school where he received the Rotary International Foundation Scholarship. The scholarship was given by the United States in 1950 where Olatunji decided to leave home for Atlanta, Georgia. Although he had gone to Atlanta to study political science, his interest in music continued to soar (Musician Guide). In 1954, Olatunji graduated…show more content…
The rhythm is a strong and repeated pattern of sound, and is typically played by percussion instruments. In Olatunji’s “Oya (Primitive Fire)”, the rhythm varies depending on the section in the song. In the introduction of the song, the rhythm is set by the drums playing a quick and repetitive progression. Soon, the song transforms into a more complex figure where the Nigerian shekere takes over the rhythm. The rhythm is simple and consists of three counts per measure. This is the constant rhythm throughout the rest of the song as everything else is built upon it. The rhythm is similar yet not the same as western music. Olatunji realized that drums in western music plays a similar role as to what he is accustomed to. Western music still utilized drums as a primary rhythmic instrument, but the song as a whole contained more instruments built up on it, such as pianos or guitars. Although the use of the drum is similar, Olatunji was more familiar with percussion being the main instrument of the entire…show more content…
While the rhythm sets the beat, the melody is the main creator of the characteristics. The melody sets the tone, mood, and the story behind the song. Many songs feature complex melodies in order to tell its story, but the melody is quite simple in “Oya (Primitive Fire)”. The melody is played by many different percussion instruments, and begins in the second section of the song. At first listen, the song sounds more like different layers of rhythmic patterns, but the combination of these patterns creates a distinct melody. Unlike in common western music, the melody is being created through the use of layers and counterpoint rather than a solo instrument. This is very common in the ancient African music that Olatunji learned. The melody is played in a pentomic scale, but because a lot of Nigerian drum music is improvisation, it is difficult to identify the specific major or minor scale.
The harmony is a harder concept to grasp in Olatunji’s musical works because of the style of Nigerian drum music. Nigerian drum music is commonly layers of instruments put together. Because each instrument has its own leading role, it is hard to hear which instrument is specifically harmonizing with the other instruments. In “Oya (Primitive Fire)” however, the harmony is a bit more prominent; the harmony is played by the drums in section two. In this section there are two sets of drums being played.
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