Michael Olatuja is a New York Nigerian bassist, composer, and producer known for his work with major Pop artists, Broadway musicals, and movies. He plays bass like a lead instrument and his music is very cinematic. Olatuja is so respected in the industry that top artists work with him. He’s also really a chef.
- Michael Olatuja plays highlights from his album “Lagos Pepper Soup” for Carnegie Hall Citywide in Times Square on Friday, September 9, 2022 at 5pm. Free. carnegiehall.org 🇳🇬
Olatuja invites everyone to wear their dancing shoes to the show, because you know, whenever we gather, we dance. Carnegie Hall Citywide was clever in choosing Times Square for this concert. Olatuja is best known for his Broadway work, so Times Square on Broadway in the Theater District is his perfect venue.
Born in London, raised in Lagos and working in NYC, Olatuja brings many influences together.
His native rhythm is Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat which is already a mix of Yoruba music with Jazz, Funk, and West African Highlife. But Michael’s music goes all over with confidence into Jazz, Pop, Gospel, R&B, and Broadway.
Michael is best known for his work on Broadway’s “Frozen,” “Motown: The Musical,” “The Color Purple,” and “Moulin Rouge.” He also collaborated on the score of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit movie “Tick, Tick … Boom!”
The line of Olatuja’s sound is West African traditions that were brought to the Americas, got all mixed up when they took away the drum. Fela Kuti brought those traditions back to Mother Africa in his creation of Afrobeat which evolved into Afrobeats and AfroPop. In the 1980s David Byrne of Talking Heads brought Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat into American New Wave Rock. Olatuja now brings it all back to New York and adds some Broadway to the many flavors of the journey.
Lagos Pepper Soup
“Lagos Pepper Soup” is Michael Olatuja’s excellent 2020 album. Nigerian pepper soup has many flavors in it. That’s a perfect description of the album.
This is truly Global Music. It’s fun to listen for the different traditions on the recording. On “Ma Foya” featuring Brandee Younger, we hear a rhythm very similar to the Cuban Mozambique rhythm on “Richie’s Jala Jala,” the Richie Ray & Bobby Cruz hit from 1967 which combined Puerto Rico’s Jala Jala rhythm with American R&B. Olatuja makes you listen deeply.
We love Michael’s positive attitude and notice that it’s a characteristic of many great artists.
“I tend to lean to the message of hope and inspiration, celebrating life because there are miracles around us every day. I think it’s worthwhile observing them and celebrating them.” Michael Olatuja
The album celebrates life with many great guest artists including:
- Angelique Kidjo
- Becca Stevens
- Brandee Younger
- Dianne Reeves
- Grégoire Maret
- Joe Lovano
- Laura Mvula
- Lionel Loueke
- Onaje Jefferson
- Regina Carter
- Robert Mitchell
Michael’s Recipe for Nigerian Pepper Soup
Olatuja really is a chef. Here’s his recipe for Nigerian Pepper Soup.
Original coverage of Michael Olatuja was sponsored by Carnegie Hall. Thank you!