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Michael Olatuja

Speak, the title of bassist Michael Olatuja’s debut album, holds deep personal meaning for its creator, exemplifying in a single word the album’s underlying themes of hope, encouragement, inspiration and positivity. The album, which will be released on July 28 on Backdrop, ObliqSound’s sub-label focusing on modern electronic and groove-based music, tells the story of the British/Nigerian artist’s musical and personal journey. “The language of music is one that we all speak,” Olatuja explains. “It unites diverse cultures.”

The ten songs on Speak find Olatuja stepping out of his role as sideman and finally presenting his personal vision as producer and composer. With musical influences and guests from around the world, the album touches on each spot Olatuja has hit around the globe, including his childhood in London and Lagos, Nigeria, and his professional years in London and New York. Speak is clearly the album Olatuja has been working toward his entire career and points to a strong future.

Chances are you’ve already heard Olatuja’s extraordinarily creative musicianship. His work has enlivened the performances of Terence Blanchard, Patti Austin, Lisa Stansfield, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, Gretchen Parlato and many others.

Olatuja, 28, began crafting the music that would become Speak as long ago as 2003. From the genesis of the project he knew what he wanted to accomplish. From there, the music took shape organically as the pieces fell into place, Olatuja calling upon a large cast of musicians to assist him in realizing the self-produced project, including several singers who alternate on lead vocals: Eska Mtungwazi, Andrew Roachford, Terri Walker, Onaje Jefferson, Michael’s wife Alicia Olatuja and the late neo-soul artist Lynden David Hall.

On Speak, Olatuja finds commonalities among the various genres that have shaped his artistry, beginning with the indigenous, traditional sounds that formed his roots during his youth in Nigeria. “I grew up in a church that sang Yoruba Christian songs and played Yoruba style music,” he recalls. “I honed my skills playing in many Yoruba music bands. So when it came to songwriting this influence came out naturally.”

At age 11, Olatuja picked up a bass guitar for the first time, and within five years, he was playing professionally, absorbing everything he’s heard since then�"soul, jazz, R&B, gospel and more. Influences such as guitarist George Benson and jazz bassists John Patitucci and Richard Bona, who Olatuja calls his “teacher and mentor,” helped shape his musical world. Additional schooling in both the U.K. at Middlesex University and in the U.S. at Manhattan School of Music sharpened Olatuja’s chops and allowed him to mix it up with world-class artists who quickly came to appreciate his gifts.

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Album Review
  • Speak by Eugene Holley, Jr.
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“A virtuoso jazz bassist whose hybridised work draws extensively on West African music”- BBC

"Bassist Michael Olatuja simply delivered a well-honed message; its project was a perpetual thing,a way of being" – New York Times

"A singular voice that taps all the cultures from which it is born." - BBC

"His bass sound and distinct sense of time are always consistent, and are always the propelling force of the music." – JazzInside Magazine

"Olatuja's supple, acoustic and electric bass lines that can trace their low-end ancestry to Ron Carter and Jaco Pastorius." - All About Jazz

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Music

Recordings: As Leader | As Sideperson

Zenzile: The...

Self Produced
2022

buy

Lagos Pepper Soup

Self Produced
2020

buy

From the Wild Sky

Justin Time Records
2018

buy

Speak

ObliqSound
2009

buy

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