Mike Nelson

photo: Deborah Mashibini

A native of St. Louis, "Baba" Mike Nelson has earned the title of "Omo Ana" or sacred drummer in a global brotherhood of musicians entered only by ritual initiation. Nelson continues the sacred traditions of Bata drumming, a music form that has survived for over 500 years, from the land of the Yorb in Nigeria to Cuba to the United States and beyond. He studied jazz trumpet and arranging under BAG artist Oliver Lake, David Hines and Lester Bowie. He studied Djembe and West African Music from master drummers Mor Thiam from Senegal and Mamady Keita of Guinea. He also studied and performed steel drum music with master drummer Oswald Moses from Trinidad.

Nelson has performed with the St. Louis Symphony, China National Orchestra and Aska Kaneko as well as a list of well-known recording artists. Mr. Nelson has served on faculty at COCA (Center of Contemporary Arts, St, Louis) and at the Better Family Life's Urban Rhythms program. Music takes him all over the country as a performer and lecturer, including a long-standing gig with Los Angeles-based Emekeke, a Cuban folkloric music ensemble directed by Filipe Garcia Villimill of Mantanzas, Cuba. His current projects include developing a formal method of playing conch shells with Downbeat Award winner jazz trombonist Steve Turre and collaborating with Zimbabwe Nkenya on an exploration of sacred Bata drumming with sacred Mbira music.

Nelson performs at The Velvet Lounge on October 25.