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Authentic Latin Music Catalog for SYNC - TV & Film Music
Cuba based rap duo, Zona Franka, blends traditional rhythms with the grit and swagger of hip-hop and rap vocal phrasings. Their clever shout choruses create instant tropical dance classics using their unique self-titled "changui con flow" style.

Babatunde Lea

Home Base Established Albums Charts
San Francisco (CA), United States 1971 1 0
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March of the Jazz Guerillas
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Latin Jazz $9.99 Buy_now_audio
Percussionist, band-leader & composer based in the SF Bay Area.

Babatunde Lea is a SF-Bay-Area percussionist and an established session musician. He has worked alongside Pharaoh Sanders, Van Morrison, McCoy Tyner, Leon Thomas, Joe Henderson, John Tchicai, and Bobby Hutcherson, before recording an album for Ubiquity Jazz that will remind listeners that he is a skilled band leader, too. He was born in Danville, Virginia. His family moved northward up the Eastern Seaboard when he was only six months old and came to settle in Englewood, New Jersey. It was there that he was first inspired by his aunts and cousins, and by stories of his drum playing Aunt Gloria (first woman in Virginia playing drums in a marching band), to begin playing drums himself.

In the sixth grade, Babatunde began drumming with various marching groups. In 1959, at age 11, he attended a concert of African drumming and dance performed by Babatunde Olatunji and his Drums of Passion which left an indelible impression on this young drummer. This expewrience permanently set his direction in life. In the ninth grade he began playing conga drums and was playing on a professional level by his junior year in high school. At 16, he played on his first professional recording session for producer Ed Townsend.

In the early 1970s Babatunde hit his stride in New York City performing regularly with such high profile artists as Leon Thomas, Oscar Brown Jr., Lonnie Liston Smith, Kenny Kirkland, John Purcell, Buddy Williams and Eddie "Gua Gua" Rivera. It was in 1977 that Babatunde migrated to the West Coast where he settled in the culturally fertile San Francisco Bay Area. It was not long before Babatunde became a vital figure in the Bay Area's music scene as well, becoming known for his versatility and ability to fit into several music genres. Since then, Babatunde has been the first call drummer for musicians seeking a dynamic and spirited drumming that he brings to the music.

More on Babatunde:
Babatunde Lea is one of those old souls. You know the type: wise and serene, blessed with a culturally diverse perspective, bubbling over with ideas and creative energies that strongly suggest theyve been this way before; someone deeply in touch with the spiritual essences. Growing up in New York and later what he refers to as the hood of nearby Engelwood, New Jersey, Babatunde Lea has forged a career steeped in the rhythms of the Motherland of Africa and its Caribbean & South American diaspora. In the late 1960s the youthful 49 year old percussionist migrated westward to the Bay Area, where he was further immersed in global rhythms, courtesy of such affiliations as fellow percussionist Bill Summers (The Headhunters; Los Hombres Calientes) visionary ensemble Bata Koto. Tunde, as he is known to intimates, has drawn immeasurable experience working with such singular stylists as Leon Thomas, Pharoah Sanders, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, Van Morrison, and a host of others. Oscar Brown Jr. was my first major artist gig.

Lea reminisces: Leon Thomas went to the church where I grew up, First Baptist Church in Engelwood. Leon used to turn the church out every Sunday! He knew me as a conga player, but I had started playing the traps. He needed a drummer for a date, but he thought I was strictly a hand drummer. I said Leon, I play [trap] drums now, so give me an audition. So I went down and played with him that night and the next night I opened at the Keystone Korner with him. I used to be in a group called JuJu in San Francisco around 1970 and Pharoah Sanders came through a lot of times when we were playing. We were playing a lot of that kind of music from inside to outside and back again, ala Pharoah himself. Theresa Records put out my first record in 79, Levels of Consciousness. Pharoah Sanders became a Theresa artist and I got to record with him on his records Rejoice and Journey to the One. Then he started calling me to work with him, playing congas and traps, Tunde recalls. I recorded one album with Van Morrison, one album with McCoy Tyner, and did a recording with Stan Getz.

Lea's cultural quest doesn't end at the bandstand. Since 1993 he and spouse Dr. Virginia Lea have operated the Educultural Foundation, a Bay Area youth education operation that through a variety of programs immerses students and schools in global rhythms primarily from Africa and the Caribbean diaspora. The Educultural Foundation is something together to sow seeds of change and be agents of change, trying to better ourselves and our communities. The Leas teach critical thinking about social and cultural issues through the arts, the drummer informs. One of their programs, Yo Ancestors! neatly dovetails and is a precursor to Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghosts quest for the spiritual essences.

Asked to detail his overall career philosophy, Babatunde eagerly divulges that he draws a lot from African culture. One of the main points: music is functional. In African life music accompanies everything. The music can put you in a space to make you learn a lot, to open you up. Once youre open and energized then you can start building things to make the world a better place. Music is like oil and water. It does the bidding of who controls it. It has the power to open you up but it doesnt direct where youre gonna go once youre open. The music of Babatunde Lea will open you up to its spiritual quest in a way you will find both stimulating to the body and edu-cultural for the mind.