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Babatunde Olaunji: Circle of Drums

Originally recorded in 1993 but never released, Circle of Drums has elder statesman and shamanic-drumming master Babatunde Olatunji joining forces with Serbian drummer Muruga Booker and Nigerian drum master Sikiru Adepoju for an invocation of spirit through the art of trance drumming. Joining the triumvirate of drummers are James Gurley on the ektara, a droning one-stringed guitar of East Indian origin (heard on “Incantations”), Harry Ely on hammered dulcimer (heard on “Embracement”) and Booker’s wife Shakti on vocals (the mesmerizing 12/8 vehicle “Ascension”).

Booker switches to drum kit and overdubs synths on the ambient soundscape “Dawn” while the 66-year-old Olatunji (who died on April 6, 2003) sings out with gusto on “Stepping (Isise).” And the crew concludes with the hypnotic “Cosmic Rhythm Vibrations,” which gradually builds over 21 minutes from a simmering slow groove to a churning climax.

Originally Published