CNN’s ‘African Voices’: Lekan Babalola · Two-time Grammy Award winner discusses the influence of jazz in his life and view of African culture
This week ‘African Voices’ examines Africa’s Music Masters, who are performing at the top of their game.
The programme features Mozambican hip-hop star Laylizzy, Ugandan rapper Navio, with a public image that promotes others, and a two-time Grammy Award winning Nigerian musician weaving tradition sounds into funky beats.
In Lagos, ‘African Voices’ meets jazz icon Lekan Babalola, who is looking to change perceptions of the genre in Nigeria.
The programme learns that Babalola is using his upbringing in a Yoruba community to create an original sound which incorporates his own jazz style.
Babalola explains his love of music and influence of his parents to ‘African Voices’: “What I love most about my job is freedom of expression, that I can express myself… The influence of my parents is very strong, particularly my father. My father was a choir master in this church. My father is from the Muslim tradition; my mother is Church of England.”
It was whilst studying abroad that Babalola discovered his love of music, but also began to look at African culture from a different perspective.
Babalola tells the programme: “In Nigeria, I think we lost our ways in appreciating our own art, our own culture… I think being away from home, and coming across to discover now, the new African culture in the new world, I think that helped me a lot, particularly the African-American culture. I think that helped me a lot, to get closer to my Yoruba culture.”
‘African Voices’ learns that Babalola began working with several musicians, which led to success internationally.
In 2006, Babalola won his first Grammy with Ali Farka Toure on the album ‘In the Heart of the Moon’, and then in 2009 for his work on Cassandra Wilson’s ‘Loverley’.
Babalola reveals to ‘African Voices’ that these awards don’t hold much significance to him, however: “I didn't go into music for me to become a Grammy award winner. I think the Grammy is something by the wayside.”
‘African Voices’ reveals that Babalola has performed at the International Jazz Festival for the Governor of Lagos, and still finds time to be a practicing IFA priest.
The programme accompanies Babalola to a meeting with his long-time friend Dehinde Harrison, before Babalola reflects on his hopes to make a better Africa.
He tells ‘African Voices’: “The impact I would like to leave on my Africa is I'd like my African people to be happy. To look within, so we don't look to Europe anymore… The unbroken community, the love. That's the kind of Africa I want.”