Updated: 1:05 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013 | Posted: 8:40 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, 2013
By Fran Jeffries, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
After 60 years of drumming, Atlanta artist Baba Harold Atu Murray, a master of the African drum, will pass his legacy and his huge drum collection along to the next generation.
On Sunday, in a ceremony called ‘Passing of the Drum Legacy,’ Atu, who is 73, will bestow many of the 300 drums he has made and played for so many years to Akumba Bynum-Roberson. Bynum-Roberson, 27, has made a name for himself as a top performer in the Atlanta drumming community.
“Baba Atu has been a mentor to many artists and musicians throughout his life,” said event organizer Bob Johnson. “It is fitting that Akumba, who is such an excellent young talent, should be picked to carry the torch.”
Baba Atu refers to Bynum-Roberson as a ‘wonderful sponge.’ “He’s the extension of me,” he said. Bynum-Roberson took drum classes from Baba Atu when he was around 5 years old. He had already gotten a headstart on playing drums from his parents when he was four, he said.
Baba Atu will bestow many of the 300 drums he has made and played for so many years to Akumba Bynum-Roberson. Bob Johnson Special
His mother Omelika Kuumba is co-founder and director of the popular Giwayen Mata, an all-female dance, percussion, and vocal ensemble in Atlanta. “I am extremely proud and excited,” about the honor, Kuumba said. “He has been blessed to learn from some great drummers.” Now, the student had become the teacher, she said. “I am now one of his grateful students.”
Baba Atu chose Bynum-Roberson, a Morehouse graduate, to be his heir apparent because of his reputation and commitment to drumming and after Bynum-Roberson performed so passionately for Baba Atu during the elder drummer’s birthday celebration in August.
Since then the young drummer has met often with the elder for sessions and to learn more about the elder man’s life experiences.
“It’s very humbling,” said Bynum-Roberson. “It’s been a wonderful experience. The journey has been great so far. I’m looking forward to what is coming next. I realize I’m taking on a heavy responsibility. I have work to do for my people.” Bynum-Roberson’s father Baba Aseba expressed pride in his son. “I am honored as well, and overwhelmed that he has excelled and learned so much in this short amount of time from the lessons I gave him as a child,” said Aseba, who performed in drum circles with Baba Atu at Piedmont Park in the 1980s.
Baba Atu has been a fixture at Kwanzaa and other celebrations throughout metro Atlanta for years. Here he performs at the Shrine of the Black Madonna. Jonathan Phillips Special
A self-taught sculptor, Atu’s wood carvings also will be available for purchase during the event. He’ll use the proceeds to help realize his ‘African Dream’ of retiring to Ghana, where he lived from 1969 to 1974. Baba Atu plans to build a house there.
He will be missed, said local veteran educator James Cameron, who has known Baba Atu since the 1980s. “When he departs Atlanta, it will be like a precious library has burned down. Our loss will be Ghana’s gain.”
The goal of the event is to raise $9,500, Johnson said. Other local artists who will be showcasing their work include Cheo Admini, Sylvia Cohen (Gbaby) Art, and Densua Abayoni’s African Treasures.
The ceremony will be held from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday at 1820 Childress Drive in southwest Atlanta.