Twice Grammy award winning Nigerian percussionist, Lekan Babalola, is well known for his innovative musical style, using his native Yoruba tongue infused with traditional music, Afrobeat and funky dance overtones.
Lekan started his career playing in the Yoruba Christian Church owned by his father. As custodians of Yoruba tradition his family taught him first hand Yoruba art and culture and this has influenced all his work .He also received a cultural and political apprenticeship from the late Fela Kuti. In 1980 he came to Britain and as his skills as a master percussionist grew was invited to join Gasper Lawal in 1982. He continued his career in New York as part of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and returned to the UK where he performed with the likes of Ernest Ranglin, Branford Marsalis, and recently African Jazz All Stars, Roy Ayers, The Kate Luxmoore Group, David Byrne, Joshua Redman, Damon Albarn, Tony Allen, The KLLB Band, Axelle Red, Pinse Saul, Queen Salawa Abeni and Jean Toussaint.
For me, music is about crossing boundaries and finding commonality globally. I love combining ancient and contemporary and my work with The Afrobeat Messengers has given me another opportunity to take traditional vibes and give them a contemporary twist," says Babalola. "Yoruba culture weaves its way through our modern lives through music and rhythm, and this gives me the chance to tell its story making it relevant to everyone today. Awarded his first Grammy in 2006 for performances on the late Ali Farka Toure's album 'In the Heart of the Moon', he was awarded a second at the 49th Grammy awards in 2009 for his work as Associate Producer on the American jazz diva Cassandra Wilson's album 'Loverly'. World press has given him rave reviews for his percussive 'wizardry' and infectious grooves. Lekan now devotes himself to his solo, contemporary and traditional projects with regular appearances at concert venues around the world and has his own album released on the Mr. Bongo label entitled "Songs of Icons".
Lekan studied filmmaking at Central St Martin's College of Art and Design, continuing his studies at Northern School of Film & Television, Leeds. In 1992 Spike Lee invited Lekan to be one of his assistant on the making of Malcolm X and he also spent six months on the postproduction of the film. This experience exposed him to a new expression of African Diaspora art and culture.
In 1995 Lekan Babalola founded the Ifa-Yoruba Contemporary Arts Trust, a UK based registered charity trust committed to fostering the development of Yoruba arts and culture.
As Artistic Director of Ifa-Yoruba he has commissioned and Curated a series of visual arts works, including "16 Pieces " - an exhibition of contemporary Yoruba paintings by artists throughout the African Diaspora and "Erindinlogun" - a collection of 28 batik drawings by Nigerian based artist Taiwo Adediran.
In the last few years Olalekan has undertaken education work as part of his artistic programme and has an on-going relationships both in the UK, USA, Europe, Caribbean and Africa as a percussionist, art Curator tutor, band leader / composer and producer.