Djembe & Mande Music Page/Review Section
(last revision 02/11/99)


TITLE: LOVE DRUM TALK 
ARTIST: BABA OLATUNJI
FORMAT: CD
COMPANY: CHESKY RECORDS
NUMBER: 903680160-2

Baba Olatunji's most recent, Grammy-nominated album, "Love Drum Talk" is a musical treat. With its emphasis on deep-voiced drums interposed against sweetly melodic voices and string instruments, this recording achieves a rare symbiosis as it explores different aspects of the mysteries of Love.

The first track, "sare tete wa", is a plea by a lover to his/her estranged beloved to hurry back. This song, with a theme based on the old 50s standard "Lover Come Back" explores similar rhythmic territory of some of Baba's best compositions from the "Celebrate Freedom" and "Drums of Passion: The Beat" CDs, but with an additional dimension as the chorus of vocalists echo the instrumentalists.

"what's your number, mama?" is a playful take on the number games that potential lovers play. Upbeat dance floor lust grooves through this song.

"love drum talk" is "a conversation primarily between the drums and the drummer about the nature of a certain love." Baba goes deep on this one.

Set to an old West African melody, "bebi alolo" is a beautiful song about a petite young woman who loves to dance to the drums. It opens with sweet acoustic guitar licks, answered by the deep-throated voice of the dundun and ashiko drums, all of which set the stage for a vocal conversation between Baba and the chorus. 

In "spell monisola" Baba sings of his beloved granddaughter. What greater love could there be?  This song demonstrates "the way in which sounds of music in most African names can be taught by spelling and drumming."

"don't know why my love" explores the potential pain of passionate love. The strings and voices express the "various stages and intensities of pain. But the ashiko and djun-djun beat to the heal the hurt."

The electric bass opens "mother, give me love" with a loping, snaky rhythm line, introducing Baba's plea for love from those closest to him. Baba stretches his remarkable vocal range, and pushes the song to greater and greater intensity as the drumming slowly builds. And builds. And then drops back down for a gently invigorating fade-out. Baba at his very best.

"long distance lover" utilizes a rhythmic theme that many of Baba's students will recognize, celebrating the strength of those "whose love is keener and more enduring as the distance separating them from their loved ones increased."

Baba's musical sensibility was formed surrounded by the drums that "were a daily backdrop to life in his birthplace, the fishing village of Ajido, some forty miles outside Lagos [Nigeria]."  "Love Drum Talk" is a testimonial to that musical sensibility and how it has been influenced in the 47 years since Baba arrived in America.

In acting as one of Africa's musical ambassadors, Baba has always sought to explore "integral facets of the human experience".  On "Love Drum Talk" he takes on "life's brightest aspect."  Not surprisingly, he does so with wisdom, grace, and power.

Note:  All quotations from the liner notes to "love drum talk".

Doug Kane

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