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Tunde Baiyewu: Records that changed my life

Allison Lee

BY Allison Lee

23rd Feb 2023 Music

Tunde Baiyewu: Records that changed my life

Solo artist and former frontman of Lighthouse Family, Tunde Baiyewu, shares the records that he has sung his heart out to and transported him to another world

It began with my mother enrolling me in a church choir when I was younger, effectively introducing me to hymns. Here were songs with meaningful lyrics and transcendent melodies that completely transformed how I felt. It was a feeling that would carry me throughout the week and empower me to do everything.

"Hymns had meaningful lyrics and transcendent melodies that completely transformed how I felt"

At the time, I could not believe that hymns were written by people; their ethereal quality gave me the impression that they simply exist. Of course, I grew up and learned that there were people behind these hymns, crafting every lyric and melody. That’s when I began to seek out hymnal qualities in songs I listen to.

James Taylor by James Taylor

Tunde Baiyewu: Records that changed my life - album cover of James Taylor's debut album

“Carolina In My Mind” was a particular favourite of mine from James Taylor’s self-titled debut album. I first heard it on the radio and could not believe my ears. It was one of those songs that made me think, “I wish I had written that music, came up with those lines,” which eventually became the yardstick for me finding my favourite records.

"It was one of those songs that made me think I wish I had written that music, came up with those lines"

While I listened to that song, it was as if James was right next to me singing, as if it was a conversation happening between the both of us. I felt that transportive quality that hymns gave me as a child. In fact, James Taylor’s music has had such an impact on me that I am covering one of his songs on my next record.

Grace by Jeff Buckley

Picture this: I was in New York to visit Universal with my manager and we were both sitting in a quiet cafe in the morning. A man walks in looking a little dishevelled and my manager gets all excited along with the rest of the cafe. You could tell this man was a frequent patron as the staff greeted him, but you could also tell he wasn’t just any patron judging by the commotion his entrance had stirred.

Turns out, it was Jeff Buckley. My manager introduced me to Jeff and we struck up a conversation before going our separate ways. I began looking for Jeff’s music and found Grace. Imagine the same spiritual quality that washed over me when I came across his cover of “Hallelujah,” the most famous rendition yet.

What solidified this album as life-changing for me was the passing of Jeff after I had returned from New York. He had drowned and my newly-released record was titled Ocean Drive, making the whole encounter more poignant. I only wish I had gotten to know Jeff on a more personal level.

Parade by Prince

Tunde Baiyewu: Records that changed my life - album cover of Prince's Parade

There was once when I had gone on a spiritual retreat with my friends in Minneapolis and the topic of “Who is the greatest artist?” came up. It was down to Michael Jackson or Prince. Coming from an artistic standpoint, my vote was for Prince. Soon, the conversation dimmed and my friends and I settled down for the night.

At 2am, my phone rang. One of my friends informed me that Prince had just announced an impromptu gig at Paisley Park, which was Prince’s home and studio just twenty minutes from Minneapolis. It seemed too good to be true, but it was. We got tickets, attended the gig with barely a thousand people, and watched Prince perform live.

Sometimes It Snows In April” holds a special place in my heart from this record. Prince sings about the loss or death of someone you love in a striking way while keeping that spiritual quality I treasure. Every time I hear that song, I think, “Wow, it takes a special talent to write a song like that”. Sometimes there are specific bodies of works by artists that you look up to and aspire to reach, and this song was it for me.

Zombie by Fela Kuti

Tunde Baiyewu: Records that changed my life - album cover of Fela Kuti's Zombie

I grew up in Lagos, Nigeria. And while we had popular artists like Marvin Gaye on the radio, we also listened to African artists. One of these artists who happened to be embedded into my environment was Fela Kuti, who was well-known for using his music to posit political statements in protest against the government at the time. Most of Fela’s work was underlined by political motives and anti-government sentiments that still stand true today.

"Most of Fela’s work was underlined by political motives and anti-government sentiments that still stand true today"

Fela, who set the scene for Afrobeat, also had his own Paisley Park in Lagos called New Afrika Shrine. People like Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney would go there just to listen to Fela play and New Afrika Shrine became this well-known hub of music. I had left Nigeria for the UK at the time, so I never got the chance to visit New Afrika Shrine or listen to Fela live, but he continued to be part of the landscape and was constantly played on the radio.

Tunde Baiyewu: Records that changed my life - Nocturne Concert at Blenheim Palace

Catch Tunde performing on a triple bill alongside Gregory Porter and Emeli Sandé as part of this year’s Nocturne Live concert series at Blenheim Palace running from 14th – 18th June 2023.

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