Who wants to know the reason rich people flourish even as poor folks continue struggling for the most basic necessities in life? That is a question Baoku Moses, the front man for The Image Afro-beat Band, asks melodically in his song “Oro Sunukun (Deep Issue).” Born in Ilesa, a city in the Osun state of Nigeria, Baoku knew nothing but extreme poverty for the first twenty-one years of his life. His only objective was to work enough so that he could survive from one day to the next. That struggle for survival led Baoku to Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city. It was in Lagos that Baoku developed the only ambition he ever had, to become an artist and a Yoruba cultural ambassador.
In Lagos, the rhythm of a drum led Baoku to his life’s destiny… literally. It was 1994, and at the time Baoku worked manual labor jobs that he would not wish on his worst enemy. However, it was in Lagos that Baoku discovered his love for theatre and eventually music. One day he followed the sound of drums and gong to Ajumobi Theater Group’s rehearsal. Baoku met the director and became involved, first as an actor. Within two months of participating in the theater group, he claimed that his “creative mind opened up.” Baoku began writing scripts and songs, and within a year he moved up and became an apprentice with a bigger company, Odunfa Theatre Institute, an internationally renowned company whose actors star in major Nigerian films. Finally, he became a student with the Ivory Ambassadors, one of the highest rated private cultural troupes in Nigeria. As an apprentice, he refined his acting skills and danced. His dance career didn’t last long, because at 6’4” it was difficult for choreographers to match him with a partner. Frustrated, he decided to learn the drums. All the while the singer and songwriter penned songs that were critical of the world, and which sought to spread messages of hope, unity, and power.
In 1997, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti – the father of Afrobeat – died. Upon his death, the Nigerian government lifted a ban on Fela’s music. As it played freely on the radio, it was like the spirit of Fela found a new home in Baoku, who quickly decided that he would play Afrobeat from that point forward.
Baoku released his first demo in 1998, which showed people that he was more than just a drummer. After proving that he was a talented composer, he began helping people arrange and compose their own material. He would even help them in studio sessions, sometimes singing backup and playing drums on their tracks. One of those people was Becky Umeh. She invited him to join her band Alejo (which means visitor) on a trip to the United States where they were to play in a world music festival. At the time, Baoku was already involved with two other tours. In one tour he was a music director, and he was the lead drummer with an opportunity to promote his own music in the other. However, he decided to tour with Alejo Band in 2002, which proved to be a great opportunity, because it provided Baoku with a two year visa. That was enough time for Baoku to establish himself and set new roots in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Baoku is still in Cincinnati where he is married and teaching drum and dance classes full time. He considers himself a Yoruba culture and Afrobeat ambassador. Essentially, that means that he strives to maintain a strong connection with his national and cultural roots as he teaches others through drumming, dancing, and Afrobeat music. Baoku stated,
When people listen to my song[s], I want them to think about the world and the situations we are all facing. As they dance to my groove, I want people to feel the vibe of struggle, suffering, hope, peace, love, and begin to accept that unity is one of the best cures for all our sicknesses (the world is ill and unity is one of the pills to heal the world). United we will stand forever, divided we will continue to fall.
Baoku, whose name means “hope,” has committed his life to this mission of curing the world of its ills and making the world a more peaceful and respectful place to live.
Baoku and the Image Afro-beat Band are playing at several festivals in Ohio and elsewhere, and they are working on their first studio album together. Much of the album features the Afrobeat sounds that many people have come to know and love. But the band is also working on some experimental tracks that combine spoken word, rap, and even heavy metal that will surely highlight Baoku’s creativity and his band’s innovation.
They are hoping to collaborate with artists from any genre of music in their attempts to make their music a universal language with which to spread their message. Also, Baoku and the Image Afro-beat Band are interested in playing events of all variety, including concerts and festivals all over the world.
If you’re interested in collaborating with, booking, or following Baoku and The Image Afro-beat Band, visit their Reverb Nation Page. Or contact Baoku directly by email (email@example.com). You can also get new music via his Soundcloud and Baoku’s personal website.
– Brotha Onaci
Check out Baoku’s powerful Drumming on Youtube!