Peter Edward “Ginger” Baker may well be one of the greatest drummers in modern history. There are not many that can say that they have played with so many and varied artists and bands like him. He has been active since 1954 and knows how to play everything from rock and blues to jazz and African beats. Besides his part as a drummer in famous bands he also has a long solo career, something that is quite unusual for most drummers.
Check him out if you never heard him play.
Ginger`s african rhythms
By Ray Telford
The musical paths chosen by Ginger Baker since the break-up of Blind Faith have been both interesting and very revealing.
Blind Faith we can forget about simply because that band and its music had little to do with the musicians concerned and in Baker`s case it was particularly obvious. Air Force, though, got nearer to the truth. Back came the thunder into his drums with the familiar unrelenting rhythm patterns which hadn`t been heard since the best Cream gigs. It was a band Ginger dearly wanted to survive and had they been still going today they`d have been coming up with some pretty amazing things but with any band that size plying the rock circuit the hassles involved must have been enormous. In the end it became too much.
Ginger has been quoted many times as saying that it was Phil Seaman who first turned him on to African music and last week he said it again. Ginger and Nigerian musician Fela Ransome-Kuti were giving interviews at EMI House, which turned out to be a fairly restrictive affair because of a few things going on in the room that were quite unrelated to either man`s music, but Ginger did talk about his current African projects.
It was with the release of “Atunde (We Are Here)” by Ginger Baker`s Drum Choir that the real Ginger Baker was finally brought out into the open. Shortly after the release of the album he went to Africa and he says that now he`ll be spending roughly four or five months of the year there recording Nigerian musicians at his soon to be completed Ikeja studios near Lagos.
“The studio`s about 10 miles from Lagos and it`s the only one in the whole of Africa which will concentrate on recording African musicians. I`ll be recording a lot of people who are completely unknown and who otherwise just wouldn`t get recorded at all.”
Ginger`s other work in Africa over the past few months has been taken up with his making a movie to be called “Ginger Baker In Africa”. Musically, Ginger explained, the film is about him playing with various African pick-up musicians and their gigs. The film has yet to be completed but he promises it`s coming along fine. There will also be an album released at the same time as the film.
Fela Ransome-Kuti is described on EMI`s publicity handout as being Nigeria`s “premier recording star”. Ginger says he first met Fela around 1960/61. At that time Ginger was playing with Alexis Korner among others and Fela was studying at the Trinity College of Music.
“He used to come along and jam with us every once in a while and it sounded good. Fela`ll be doing a lot of recording at the studios when they`re completed. He`s also going to be recording in Abbey Road studios for his first British album.”
Ginger feels the very essence of African music lies in its complete freedom: “There are parts in the film,” he says, “which show some really great jam sessions which are completetly free. It`s something you just don`t get in so-called civilisation where even music is restricted. That`s why it`s music to be played live in front of a lot of people. For this music you really need an audience… it`s part of me, it`s not really Ginger Baker playing African music, it`s just me. The same as Otis Redding played Otis Redding, Fela plays Fela and I play me.”
Was there ever any likelihood of a return to rock for him?
“Rock is a very strange word to me. I`ve just always played music as I see it. I never put titles to music.”
Did he then think a lot of bands going around today have been influenced by African music or soul musicians like Otis Redding?
“Otis was beautiful. I knew him. But I don`t know anything about rock groups being influenced by people like that because I don`t listen to them.”
It is doubtful that what is loosely termed “Afro-rock” has the kind of universal appeal to turn the music into big business and it`d be a shame if it ever did. It is obviously so far from being a business proposition with Ginger Baker. He reckons that there are basically the same rhythmic patterns in everybody but the differences have come about because civilisation places much more emphasis on melody whereas in Africa the barb lies in the rhythmic patterns and time changes.
Next summer Fela will make a short tour of Britain and he`ll be joined on about seven gigs with Ginger. I don`t think there will be a tremendous change in what Baker will be playing: “It`s the way I`ve always played. There`s not much more to say than that.”
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Grease Band, “Ladies in Rock”, Gary Wright, Juicy Lucy, Bud Powell, John McLaughlin, T. Rex, Bobby Keyes, Charlie Whitney, Poco, Electric Flag, Pete Atkin, Isla St. Clair.
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