|Birth name||Michael Lea|
|Origin||San Francisco, California|
|Genres||Jazz, Afrobeat, World music|
|Associated acts||Leon Thomas
Bujo Kevin Jones
DJ Jackie Christie
Michael Lea was raised in Englewood, New Jersey, while regularly commuting to 116th and Amsterdam in New York, where the rest of his family lived after moving from his birthplace, Danville, Virginia. His aunt was one of the first women to play in a marching band. He began drumming at the age of 11, when he, without drumming experience helped a drumline get a rhythm right. That same year, his cousin took him to see Babatunde Olatunji and his "Drums of Passion", and Olatunji's influence was so great that Michael took on his first name. At 16, he first participated in a professional recording session with Ed Townsend. In 1968, he moved to San Francisco, where he joined Bata Koto, led by Bill Summers. He joined a band called Juju, which relocated to Richmond, Virginia in the early 1970s.
In 1977, he moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area. Among the artists with whom he played were Stan Getz, Joe Henderson, McCoy Tyner, Randy Weston, Van Morrison, and Oscar Brown, Jr.. In 1993, Virginia and Babtunde Lea founded the Educultural Foundation, a California 501(c)3 educational non-profit organization based in Vallejo, California.
Returning east, he met up with Leon Thomas (who used to sing at the church Lea attended as a youngster, the First Baptist Church of Englewood) and became drummer in his band. This led to working with Pharoah Sanders. Lea would ultimately pay tribute to Thomas on his 2009 album, Umbo Weti, which appeared on the Motéma Music label that he founded with Jana Herzen in 2003. His first album as leader, Levels of Consciousness was released in 1979. He recorded with a band called Phenomena, which grew out of the Loft Jazz Association. He did not release another, Level of Intent, until 1996, putting it on his own label, Diaspora Records. He mortgaged his home to get the album released, but it was not widely distributed until Motéma reissued it in 2003.
Says Lea of his work, "I strive to make my compositions functional, which is an African take on the arts. The purpose I try to imbue my music with is that our growth as human beings should strive toward an anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, egalitarian, democratic universal society and I don't care how many lifetimes it takes to get there! I consider myself an activist as well as a musician and consider myself an 'agent of change.'"
His work has been noted for its mixture of styles and influences.
|Levels of Consciousness||1979||Theresa Records|
|Level of Intent||1996||Diaspora Records|
|March of the Jazz Guerillas||2000||Ubiquity|
|Soul Pools||2002||Motéma Music|
|Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost||2005||Motéma Music|
|Elaine Lucia Album||Year||Label|
|Sings Jazz and Other Things||2001||Raw Records|
|David Leshare Watson Album||Year||Label|
|Live at Lo Spuntino||2002||Music in the Lines|
|Loves Swinging Soft & Ballads||2003||Music in the Lines|
|DJ Jackie Christie Album||Year||Label|
|Made 4 U||2004||Motéma Music|
|Valerie Joi Album||Year||Label|
|Rise Above||2004||TruJoi Music|
|Singing the Sacred Yes||2006||Gemini Sun|
|Bujo Kevin Jones Album||Year||Label|
|Tenth World||2005||Motéma Music|
|Wayne Wallace Album||Year||Label|
|Idris Ackamoor Album||Year||Label|
|Music of Idris Ackamoor 1971–2004||2005—2000||EM Records|
|Eric Swinderman Album||Year||Label|
|In Pursuit of the Sound||2006||Self-released|
|Panos Kappos Album||Year||Label|
|Viva Cubop!, Vol. 2: Dance the Afro-Cuban Way||2000||Cubop Records|
- Yanow, Scott (2000). Afro-Cuban Jazz: Great Musicians, Influential Groups. San Francisco, CA: Backbeat Books. p. 200. ISBN 0-87930-619-X.
- "Babatunde Lea". Allmusic. Retrieved November 7, 2008.
- Sacramento Talent Magazine March 1, 2011 http://www.sactalent.com/emag/story/babatunde-lea
- Cazares, David (October 5, 2012). "In his hands: Babatunde Lea channels African drumming traditions". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved October 10, 2012.
- Anthology Fine Tuned Music and Cuisine. "Babatunde Lea feat. Patrice Rushen & Bennie Maupin" http://artists.anthologysd.com/world-music/babatunde-lea-feat-patrice-rushen-bennie-maupin-august-18-2011/
- J. Poet. "Babatunde Lea: Summoning The Ghost Of Leon Thomas." Hand Drum! June 2010. http://www.drummagazine.com/handdrum/post/babatunde-lea-summoning-the-ghost-of-leon-thomas/
- Aq Ortiz, Javier. "Babatunde Lea's Soul Pools." All About Jazz, October 6, 2003. http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=448&page=1
- Bob Karlovits. "The African diaspora beats in drummer Babatunde Lea." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, July 1, 2009. http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/ae/music/s_631858.html#ixzz1Xxz1bQZe