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Sikiru Adepoju

Sikiru with Babatunde Olatunji

Sikiru Adepoju - LIVE

(born May 15, 1956 Eruwa, Nigeria)

Sikiru Adepoju (pronounced Seek-ee-roo Ah-deh-po-joo) is a master of the talking drum and many other Yoruba percussion instruments. Born in Eruwa, Nigeria, Sikiru hails from the traditional lineage of Yoruba talking drummers culturally referred to as Ayan which means “one who has descended from drummers lineage,” and began playing under the tutelage of his father Chief Ayanleke Adepoju at the age of six. Along with his brothers Saminu and Lasisi, Sikiru accompanied the family’s talking drum ensemble for several years.

Sikiru later went on to tour and record several albums with the renowned Nigerian Juju artist Chief Ebenezer Obey and his Inter-Reformers Band and won professional acclaim and appreciation in his homeland as a leading force on the talking drum onstage and in the studio. He would later tour the United States with legendary Afro Beat master O.J. Ekemode in the Nigerian All Stars.

After moving to the San Fransico Bay Area in 1985, Sikiru joined the influential and pioneering Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olantunji and his Drums of Passion. This marked a lengthy period of high productivity from Sikiru which saw him recording and performing  throughout the world until a year before Olantunji’s death in 2003. During this period he was introduced to Grateful Dead drummer, Mickey Hart, who has called Sikiru “The Mozart of the talking drum,” and employed him on many of his personal projects including the Grammy award winning albums Planet Drum (1991) and Global Drum Project (2008). He is currently performing with the Mickey Hart Band in support of their album Mysterium Tremendum which features Sikiru’s vocals on the track “Who Stole The Show.”

Sikiru is also the leader of his own group, Africa Heartbeat, whose 2003 recording debut Ijinle Ilu captured the attention of world music listeners and DJs with the groups’ ability to draw from the hypnotic rhythms originating in the Juju and Highlife music of the Yoruba region of Nigeria. Currently he is producing the upcoming debut recording of the African Showboyz and continuing work on the Heartbeat Africa and Limbo Rhythm projects.

Sikiru has shared the stage or recorded with many of music’s finest including The Grateful Dead, Stevie Wonder, Jerry Garcia, Carlos Santana, Ornette Coleman, Airto Moreira, Zakir Hussein, Pharaoh Sanders, Dave Schools, George Porter Jr., and many more. It is his versatility, skill, good humor, and willingness to push the limits of his drumming and his music which has gained Sikiru acceptance and respect  among his peers and music listeners of all tastes.


Afrika Heartbeat Logo

Sikiru Adepoju & Afrika Heartbeat

Sikiru Adepoju & Afrika Heartbeat - LIVE


  1. The Apocalypse Now Sessions (1989) –
    Rhythm Devils
  2. Juju Jubilee (1985) – Ebenezer Obey
  3. Drums of Passion: The Invocation (1988) –
    Babatunde Olatunji
  4. Drums of Passion: The Beat (1989) –
    Babatunde Olatunji
  5. At the Edge (1990) – Mickey Hart
  6. Planet Drum (1991) – Mickey Hart
  7. Jungle Fever (1991) – Stevie Wonder
  8. Drums of Passion: Celebrate Freedom, Justice
    & Peace (1993) – Babatunde Olatunji
  9. Big Bang (1995) – various artists
  10. Mickey Hart's Mystery Box (1996) – Mickey Hart
  11. Watchfire (1996) – Pete Sears & Friends
  12. Best of Ellipsis Arts (1997) – various artists
  13. Supralingua (1998) – Mickey Hart
  14. The Rose that Grew from Concrete – (2000)
  15. Honour Simplicity, Respect the Flow (2000) –
    Kai Eckhardt
  16. Best of Mickey Hart: Over the Edge and Back
    (2002) – Mickey Hart
  17. Ijinle Ilu – Afrika Heartbeat (2003)
  18. Life After That (2003) – Airto Moreira
  19. Soup's On Fire (2003) – Jana Herzen
  20. Circle of Drums (2005) – Babatunde Olatunji
  21. Ara Kenge (2005) – Bola Abimbola
  22. Global Drum Project (2008) - Mickey Hart, Zakir Hussain, Sikiru Adepoju, Giovanni Hidalgo
  23. Rhythm Devils Concert Experience (2009) – Star City
  24. Mysterium Tremendum (2012) – Mickey Hart Band


  1. The Rhythm Devils Concert Experience (2008 two-disc DVD)


Mickey Hart

Bembe Orisha

"World music is culture specific," says Mickey Hart, the former Grateful Dead drummer, ongoing ethnomusicologist and leader of Bembe Orisha. "If you were in the Philippines and you heard music of Appalachia, you would consider that world music, or vice versa. So 'world music' really isn't a good term to describe anything. It's the world's music."

"'Bembe Orisha' means party to the saints, the spirits of nature," he says. "It's a West African word. So that's what this is all about. It honors the roots of the music that we got -- rock 'n' roll, blues, big band, jazz. It all came to us from Africa. This is the roots of the roots."

Bembe Orisha features musicians from all over the world playing native instruments. It includes Nigerian percussionist Sikiru Adepoju; two Cubans, vocalist Bobi Cespedes and Nengue Hernandez on Latin percussion and vocals; Persian vocalist Azam Ali; South African bassist/vocalist Bakhithi Kumalo; and guitarist Barney Doyle and drummer Greg Ellis, both from the U.S. In Bembe Orisha, Mickey Hart mans a drum set, a balaphon, a thumb piano called a kalimba, and his electronic master, RAMU (Random Access Musical Universe), which allows him to call up any of a zillion pre-programmed sounds.

Click Here to purchase Planet Drum
Planet Drum album cover

"It had long been a dream of mine to bring together great drummers from around the world to make a recording based entirely on percussion," said Mickey Hart. In 1991, that dream became reality when Hart enlisted the talents of world-renowned percussionists Zakir Hussain, Airto Moreira, Babatunde Olatunji, Giovanni Hidalgo, Sikiru Adepoju, and vocalist/percussionist Flora Purim to record and ultimately extensively tour the project that became known as Planet Drum.

Planet Drum's self-titled album not only hit #1 on the Billboard World Music Chart, remaining there for 26 weeks, it also received the Grammy for Best World Music Album in 1991 (the first Grammy ever awarded in this category). Planet Drum is one of twenty-nine recordings released on Mickey Hart's the WORLD series on Rykodisc.


Babatunde Olatunji

Babatunde Olatunji & Sikiru

Giovanni Hidalgo, Babatunde Olatunji,
Mickey Hart, Sikiru Adepoju (L-R)

Babatunde Olatunji & Sikiru (background)

Late Nigerian drummer Babatunde Olatunji pioneered the successful introduction of native African music to US popular music culture and influenced musicians such as Carlos Santana, Mickey Hart, John Coltrane and Bob Dylan.

Released in 1960, his groundbreaking album, "Drums of Passion," is considered the first significant album in the so-called "world music" genre in the United States. It has sold more than 5 million copies.

"Baba" Olatunji is best known to San Francisco Bay Area rock fans through his association with the Grateful Dead. His Drums of Passion performance group, which also featured Sikiru Adepoju, appeared in concerts with the Dead. Olatunji was also a founding member of Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart's Grammy-winning Planet Drum ensemble of world percussionists.

"He was the first to bring African rhythms to western music, to rock 'n' roll and jazz," Hart has said. "He changed the face of what we recognize as music."

For more than 40 years, Baba Olatunji served as an unofficial ambassador of African music and culture, teaching traditional drumming, dancing and chanting. Coltrane, the great jazz saxophonist, was among those who studied at his Olatunji Center for African Culture in Harlem.

Santana recorded Olatunji's song "Jingo," and titled one of his albums "Shango," a track from Olatunji's landmark "Drums of Passion" record.

Dylan mentioned him on his classic 1963 album "The Freewheeling Bob Dylan," singing "What I want to know, Mr. Football Man, is what do you do about Martin Luther King, Willie Mays, Olatunji?"

A prominent voice during the civil rights movement, Baba Olatunji performed at President John F. Kennedy's inauguration. He also is credited with being an early proponent of the mind-body-spirit connection in music therapy, seeing drumming as a way to physical, spiritual and emotional health.

He once said, "Rhythm is the soul of life. The whole universe revolves in rhythm. Everything and every human action revolves in rhythm."

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