African Drumming

The history of Black Music in America actually has its roots in the heart of the Mother Land – Africa – with the sound of drums.  Drums were a form of communication.  One of the foremost instrumentalists to come out of Africa is Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji.  The influences of African Drumming can be heard through the music of such artists as Tito PuenteMongo Santamaria and Billy Cobham.

 Babatunde Olatunji was a Grammy Award winning masterful drummer born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria on April 7, 1927. Olatunji composed music for Raisin In The Sun and Spike Lee’s hit film She’s Gotta Have It"Rhythm is the soul of life. The whole universe revolves in rhythm. Everything and every human action revolves in rhythm." – Olatunji 

Tito Puente was an influential Latin jazz and mambo musician. The son of native Puerto Ricans Ernest and Ercilia Puente, of Spanish Harlem in New York City, Puente is often credited as "El Rey" (the King) of the timbales and "The King of Latin Music". He is best known for dance-oriented mambo and Latin jazz compositions that helped keep his career going for 50 years.


Mongo Santamaría was an Afro-Cuban Latin jazz percussionist. He is most famous for being the composer of the jazz standard "Afro Blue," recorded by John Coltrane among others. He was an integral figure in the fusion of Afro-Cuban rhythms with R&B and soul, paving the way for the boogaloo era of the late 1960s. His 1963 hit rendition of Herbie Hancock's "Watermelon Man" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.


Billy Cobham is one of the world’s most influential drummers, best known for his jazz fusion in the 1970s, with John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra, where he pioneered a powerful style of drumming with jazz, rock and funk influences. Cobham has played and recorded with hundreds of top musicians, including Miles Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Carlos Santana, Larry Coryell, and Horace Silver; and is famous for his explosive, fast, spectacular playing.