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He drums up interest in the past

Under the shade of a tree, Oguntumbi sat in wooden chair and placed his rosewood drum beside him. He started to play, the beats changing with his mood.

In Martin Luther King Jr. Park, Oguntumbi played for about three hours Sunday afternoon. Sometimes his left hand led the beat, other times he led with his right.

He brought the drum out for a purpose.

"I'm out here today to pass along everything we can," Oguntumbi said.

On Sunday, Oguntumbi was one of a few thousand people who came to Martin Luther King Jr. Park for the Juneteenth Festival, a celebration of the emancipation of African-Americans in 1865.

Oguntumbi belongs to one of the smaller groups at the festival. The group's official name is Orisha Pantheongenealogeopolitics, Inc.

The name is long. Its mission is simple: to reconnect with the past, to remind people that everyone is connected.

And Oguntumbi spreads that mission with his drum. He draws people's attention with his music and then spreads the group's mission.

"I'm a messenger -- my name, Oguntumbi, means 'king's messenger,' " he said.

There have been two very important people in Ogtuntumbi's life: a drummer and a king. The drummer was a man named Dewey Childers. Oguntumbi drew inspiration from Childers' beats.

At age 13 or 14, Oguntumbi started to play. He was a horn man at first, but switched to the drums. He craved the rhythms of the Afro-Cuban musicians and kept playing.

Then in 1977, Oguntumbi met the king.

The king came from Nigeria, a leader of the Yoruba tribe. Oguntumbi's ancestors had arrived in America in the 1850s but had not forgotten their roots.

So the king ordained Oguntumbi as his messenger. Oguntumbi spread the message with his drums.

At the Juneteenth Festival, Oguntumbi came with a friend of his, Adegboyega Thompson, a Nigerian immigrant and the man who founded Orisha Pantheongenealogeopolitics.

Thompson admits that the name of his group is difficult to pronounce, let alone understand.

But he is more than willing to explain each part of the name.

The "pantheon" invokes the spirits, the "Orisha," of the Yoruba tribe. "Genealogeopolitics" reminds everyone that the world is connected and to do no one harm.

They get the message, Thompson said, but first they have to know how to say the name first.

"They want to pronounce the word. I break it down, and before they know it, they can pronounce it correctly," he said.

e-mail: abrown@buffnews.com

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