Remembering Ginger Baker's Afrobeat Collaborations With Fela Kuti
After Cream, Baker spent several years in the 1970s living and recording in Nigeria, most notably with Fela Kuti.
Ginger Baker, pioneer British rock drummer and co-founder of the band Cream, passed away yesterday. He was 80-years-old.
"Baker had been suffering from myriad ailments, including chronic respiratory illness and osteoarthritis," Okayplayer reports. "On September 25th, his family asked fans to keep Baker in their prayers, as he'd reached a critical point that warranted hospitalization. And [Sunday] morning, they informed fans on Facebook the drummer had 'passed away peacefully.'"
Baker was well-known across the world for his work with Cream, the group he formed alongside Eric Clapton and Jack Bruce.
Once Cream disbanded—and short stints with projects like Blind Faith and Ginger Baker's Air Force—the drummer turned his attention to Africa, eventually building a recording studio in Lagos, Nigeria.
The documentary, Ginger Baker in Africa, follows him as he traveled by Range Rover from Algeria to Nigeria, across the Sahara Desert. Once he reached Lagos, he started setting up the studio. Though it took some times to figure out, and several setbacks, Batakota (ARC) studios finally opened at the end of January 1973.
The Lagos studio hosted the likes of Paul McCartney & the Wings and—of course— Fela Kuti. Baker would go on to regularly perform and record with Fela throughout his time in Nigeria.
Baker's drumming appeared on several albums alongside the Nigerian king of afrobeat—including Why Black Man Dey Suffer (1971), Live! (1972) and Stratavarious (1972). "He understands the African beat more than any other Westerner," legendary afrobeat drummer Tony Allen said of Baker in a Rolling Stone interview.
"Though he was prone to outbursts and notoriously difficult to work with (detailed in the 2012 documentary Beware of Mr. Baker,) the rest of Baker's life was defined by a profoundly collaborative spirit," Okayplayer's report continues. "He'd play with jazz giants — including, but not limited to, Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Elvin Jones — and founded the prog-rock ensemble, Baker-Gurvitz Army, with brothers, Paul and Adrian Gurvitz, releasing three albums on Janus and ATCO."
Watch Ginger Baker and Fela Kuti performing together in the clip below.
AFRICA 70 - Let's Start Fela Kuti, Africa 70 & Ginger Baker youtu.be