b. 23 September 1948, Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria. A percussionist and band leader, Lawal left Nigeria to settle in the UK in the mid-60s. Basing himself in London, he became rapidly established in the session scene, and over the next 10 years recorded with a large number of local and visiting musicians, covering a wide variety of styles, including Ginger Baker’s Airforce, Stephen Stills, the Rolling Stones, George Clinton’s Funkadelic and Barbra Streisand. In 1975, he joined London-based rock band Clancy, leaving in 1977 to return to Nigeria. Moving back to London in 1978, Lawal formed his own group, Afriki Sound (later renamed the Drum Oro Band), creating a highly individual style which succeeded in marrying traditional West African roots music and instrumentation with elements of experimental rock and jazz. A fervent believer in the value of traditional African music, Lawal was also convinced that it needed to develop and could benefit from the incorporation of certain western ideas and influences. With Afriki Sound he released two superb albums on his own Cap label, Ajomase (which in Yoruba means ‘We all have to do it together’), which spawned two dancefloor hit singles in ‘Kita Kita’ and ‘Oromoro’, and Abiosunni (Yoruba for ‘Are you sleeping or what?!’). Both albums featured the cream of expatriate African musicians living in London, notably Olalekan Babolola (percussion), Tunji Omoshebi (trumpet), Abdul Salongo (guitar), Don Amaechi (guitar, percussion, kora, keyboards), Ray Allen (saxophones) and Osibisa’s Mac Tontoh (trumpet). In the mid-80s, Lawal was a founder member of Britain’s Black Music Association, a pressure group which worked to achieve greater exposure and better working conditions for black musicians. In the late 80s he once again embraced a wide range of session work, including spells alongside the Pogues, UB40 and Robert Palmer. In 1989 he toured with Zairean superstar Papa Wemba and appeared in a Royal Command Performance before the Queen and President Babangida. In 1990 sessions began on his third album, the critically acclaimed Kodara, effectively a masterclass in traditional percussion.
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