Babatunde Olatunji

by Joy Krauthammer

Northridge, CA, USA
January 11, 2007

Baba 1996
 © Joy Krauthammer

Dear Baba,

I love you and miss you, since you died almost four years ago, April 6, 2003, but I always play you. When we performed together at Rusty's club on the pier in Santa Monica, CA, with Ayo & Carol Adeyemi & other Yoruba House drummers, you signed my djembe's hairy, natural skin drum head:

To Sister Joy,
One Love

Babatunde Olatunji, Ayo Adeyemi, Yao, Joy Krauthammer
Performing in club on Santa Monica Pier 1996

I treasure that experience and those words, and I feel your presence as I see your name as I drum. That November day I had dozens of your large African carved wooden djembes in my only hours old, new purple spacious Ford Explorer SUV. It held all of your drums. I felt so exhilarated from the high energy. Got my first auto "ding," too.

A whole decade has passed, deliriously delicious with drumming. Gun Dun, Go Do, Pah Tah, Gun Dun, Go Do, Pah Tah... I have learned from Yoruba priest. Ayo Adeyemi-- my very first African teacher, plus Yao, Francis Awe, Leon Mobley, Chris Hart, and soul-filled white guys--Arthur Hull, Paolo Mattioli*, and dozens more great African-style drummers, students of yours.  (See photos below.)

I want you to know that this past Shabbat / sabbath at a Jewish synagogue, Makom Ohr Shalom / Place of Light and Peace, here where I live in the Valley, I brought 18 great hand drummers of all ages and cultures, to play and to inspire the congregation, and we did. HALLELUYAH!  I named us--friends who jam at REMO--Kindred Spirits. With permission and approvals from a Board of Directors, I brought the many drummers to my synagogue for motivation, and to also celebrate my crossing over the 12 months of grieving (with my husband's, obm, death) and returning to Joy-- joy in music and passion of life. More friends were in the pews dancing with their drums and percussion, tambourines and shakers.

One woman even had a Sakara, the small, shallow frame drum, skin and stick drum with circular clay body and tuning pegs, just like the first one that you brought in 1950 to this country, America, from your village in Nigeria. You would have loved this rockin' service, as the people in prayer loved the rhythm. Makom had been mostly a quiet meditation shul, now it is also a shul filled with ecstatic souls swaying in sacred sounds. What "a gift, to be present", as you said. I drum on my beautiful djembe uplifting spirit at many synagogues. I know when I am being drummed.

I keep your framed autographed photo that I shot, on my wall and see you daily, in my computer, too. I brought to you as a gift, a photo that I had taken of you playing. I also brought a photo of you and your dancer, drummer Yao, to Yao, to bring him comfort and joy, as he lay still in his last moments of life, may he also rest in peace. I was amazed that in his unconscious state, he said, "Thank you", to me, as he held your photo in his hand. I told him what I was giving to him, as his wife sat quietly nearby. I loved watching him dance to your drums. Do Yao and Ayo both translate to Joy? My husband, Marcel, z'l, of blessed memory, also just joined you 12 months ago, this week. Drumming sustained me during years of his cancer, paralysis and life-support, and now this last year during my mourning. Drumming is healing.

Dear Baba, I met your nephew in Israel. Such a small world. We rode together one hot summer's day from a Jerusalem hotel to the Old City, in a crowded van with his friends, all dressed in their colorful African garments. I was upset that several men got into this van that I was also waiting for, and left no room for me. The driver made seating changes, and I rode up front. I decided to turn the stressful experience around and I asked where one man was from, and with your nephew’s answer, told him that I know you. Your nephew told me that at that moment, you were at his home in Nigeria. I knew that you were not well, and I sent blessings to you. I transformed the darkness of my feeling left out, to light.

In the early sixties, when I was a teenager in Queens, New York, I took my baby sitting money (at 50 cents an hour) by bus and subway to Manhattan, and went to a big record store and bought only one album, my very first album purchase, DRUMS OF PASSION, your 1959 album which has sold over five million copies. Of course, I still have it, half a century later, and thankfully feel the passion. For ten years, I love playing at REMO’s drum circle, and at many synagogues and celebrations of life.

Never did I ever even imagine that I would know, and love you, Babatunde Olatunji, and continue to bring your joy and passion of rhythm and drumming to our world. Thank you for being you. Did you know that I keep your photo on my djembe, held in place by the ropes?

Along with my Rebbe Shlomo Carlebach, z"l, may he rest in peace (whom you played with, and I also accompanied Shlomo), you have been a highlight of my life. I truly manifested my vision and further dreams to be a drummer, and it began with you, but I did not realize it until recently. And I thought that I have been a drummer for only exactly twenty years since my first drum kit lessons. No, double that! I have had my heart and soul in drumming for at least forty years since discovering you. I have kept your legacy alive. I have been blessed that my affirmations are answered, and I am grateful.

Because of you, I sign all my correspondence, ONE LOVE. Please know that you remain in my heart. Your spirit is the rhythmic soul of my life.

You signed my drum forever,

To Sister Joy
One Love,
Baba Olatunji
Nov. 7, 1996

 My Djembe 
 ©  Joy Krauthammer

Baba Olatunji
 ©  Joy Krauthammer

"Drums of Passion"
Baba  Olatunji

My Teachers

Ayo Adeyemi, Joy Krauthammer @ REMO

Leon Mobley, Joy Krauthammer @ REMO
 © Steve Hirsch

Francis Awe (talking drum), Joy Krauthammer

Chris Hart, Joy Krauthammer, Aviva Krauthammer
 REMO VIP tour
with Chris, International Marketing Director

* Paolo Mattioli died, September 22, 2011 from brain cancer.
May his memory be for a blesSing.
REMO held a memorial for Paulo, obm, on November 1, 2011.
I continue to play the gorgeous "cadillac" djembe that Paulo made for me, the one that I performed on while with you. Paolo and I shared the same birthday and at times celebrated at Remo and I would bring goodies for all. Paolo taught us to play and dance with African dancers and share the circulating energy. ("If you can say it, you can play it!")

~ ~ ~

August 27, 2017
AYO ADEYEMI, my first djembe teacher, is on FaceBook and I wrote to him. 

Dear Ayo, It's been over a couple dozen years since you were my FIRST African djembe teacher when I shlepped to Los Angeles every week for my private lessons, and also to your glorious moon ceremonies. I'll never forget how we first met in the park when your tribe performed in full costume during an ARTS festival and then I led you all, my new friends, in an auto procession to the Jewish art exhibit opening reception. I was amazed that your friends from Africa knew Hebrew. They taught me about the Ibo's from Hebrews.

Guess that I won't see you at Remo anymore because Remo just moved away from the SFValley. 

Over a decade ago I wrote a 'love' letter to Babatunde Olatunji, obm, (whom I gratefully met in your home) and created a web site for BABA. There's a couple photos of YOU too. 


(With djembe I'm still serving at my various spiritual communities since 1990.)

 BlesSings, Joy - translates to 'Ayo' in Yoruba.  :)
Because of you I have 'Olufunmilayo'. (G*d gives me joy.)
~ ~ ~

1 comment:

  1. Joy,
    Your blog to Baba brought tears to my eyes.


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