When you think of Nigeria you probably don’t think of jazz, but Grammy award winning musician Lekan Babalola is on a mission to change that perception.
Influenced by his upbringing in a Yoruba community, Babalola’s musical journey started in an unlikely place: his father’s church.
“The influence of my parents is very strong, particularly my father,” Babalola told CNN. “My father was a choir master in this church …My father wanted to play music with so many people for the love of God.”
“Of course, it’s spiritual. The influence is very strong, like Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Quincy Jones, John Coltrane. A lot of my musical idols, African American, they’re from the church. It’s a spiritual thing.”
Music wasn’t Babalola’s original career choice, but while studying automobile engineering in England, he discovered his true calling—music.
His time abroad also helped him look African culture from a different perspective.
“In Nigeria, I think we lost our ways in appreciating our own art, our own culture,” he said.
“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.”
Yoruba culture has played an integral part in Babalola’s music, his original sound comes from weaving traditional sounds into his funky jazz beats, which has netted him two Grammy awards.
Accolades aside Babalola hopes to use his art to create a better Africa.
“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 ” he said.
“We can have good things, good life basics. Light, good education, good health…the unbroken community, the love. That’s the kind of Africa I want.”