Babatunde Lea

Babatunde Lea


Babatunde Lea's music (Motema Music) is an African inspired jazz journey. In 2005 Babatunde was given a prestigious award for Adventurous Programming by ASCAP/Chamber Music America and was voted best jazz artist by the San Francisco Weekly.


Babatunde Lea

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 they’ve been this way before; someone deeply in touch with the spiritual essences. Such an impression is borne out in spades by ‘Tunde’s newest entry in the growing tradition of Motema Music. Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost is a journey through the spirit world powered by contemporary, deeply sculpted grooves and articulations specially crafted by this master percussionist; all delivered by a high-spirited crew of musicians.

“I’m not a religious man, but I do believe in spirit, that it intervenes in our lives in mysterious ways. So I thought with this record I wanted to pay homage to the spirits. This suite is five melodic vignettes that call on the spirits, culminating in [ the 5th and final movement] “Summoner of the Ghosts. I get more technically adept as I grow and keep practicing, but the one thing that I’m really sure of about my playing is that I can call the ghosts.” To label Babatunde Lea a multiple percussionist is to recognize the holistic, global approach and depth of his skills, as both trap drummer – from whence he primarily operates on this disc – as well as hand drums and miscellaneous percussion from diverse sources.

Babatunde's music is steeped in the rhythms of the Motherland of Africa and its Caribbean & South American diaspora. Lea was raised in New York and Englewood, New Jersey, but in the late 1960s 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 also drawn immeasurable experience working with such singular stylists as Leon Thomas, Pharoah Sanders, Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, Van Morrison, Oscar Brown, Jr., and a host of others.

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 my wife and I put together to sow seeds of change and be agents of change, trying to better ourselves and our communities. We 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 Ghost’s quest for the spiritual essences.

Asked to detail his overall career philosophy, Babatunde eagerly divulges that “I draw a lot from African culture and one of the main things I draw is that 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 you’re 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 doesn’t direct where you’re gonna go once you’re 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 “educultural” for the mind.

In 2005, Babatunde one first prize of the prestigious award in Adventurous Programming given by Chamber Music America/ASCAP and was voted best jazz artist by the San Francisco Weekly.


March of the Jazz Guerillas
Level of Intent
Soul Pools
Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost
Levels of Consciousness

Set List

One hour sets: Mainly original music. Set List:
Ancestral Stroll
On the T.L.
A Song for Ani
The Bay Area's Afro-Latin Funky Love Shuffle
The Unseen
Fire and Rain
Spirit of the Wood
Chants from Home
From Home
Maeeah's Big Adventure
Summoner of the Ghost