THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)
Son of Legendary Drummer Ginger Baker to Perform At White’s Bar Saturday • May 7th
Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, Local Music, National Music, Artist Feature, By: Robert 'Bo' White
13th April, 2016 0
Kofi Baker is an enigma who was born into rock royalty yet lived a squatter’s life. For years he never really knew the famous drummer Ginger Baker as his father; more as a phantom of the opera, masked and unapproachable.
The father/son relationship was a gilded lie, yet Kofi continued to seek out his father and they eventually reached a binding truce, as loving as starched collar and a stiff embrace. Yet Ginger Baker gave much to his son in that brief candle of time. Kofi found his calling in those glorious polyrhythm’s that his father taught him so many years ago.
What inspired you to become a musician?
I never knew any different, really. I grew up around drums so it’s just what I did. I never really thought about it. I could play drums from a very young age, like 3.
Was it being around musicians and your father that inspired you to become a musician?
I wasn’t really around musicians, as my dad left home when I was very young. It was more that there were drums around and I didn’t know how to play them so I just played them for fun. I didn’t really get serious about it until I was about 14 or 15. That’s when I started practicing a lot. I got evicted from my house when I was 15, so it became what I did for money. I lived on the streets from when I was 15 to 16 ½ or so.
I didn’t know that! Where was your mom? Was she trying to help?
Well, I mean, my mom didn’t have a job when my dad left, so she tried to live off the tit for a while. They just came and took the house. They said, “Ok, we are repossessing the house, so you gotta go.” My mom went and found a job. She rented a one bedroom in someone else’s house. The only other place to go was my grandparents and they had one room. My sisters went there.
I was in Italy when we got evicted. That was the second time. We got evicted two times. The first time we got evicted they threw us out of the house. I climbed back into the house, ran through the house, and let everyone back in. We squatted in our own house for 6 months. Squatting is when you basically find an empty house and you get into it and you just stay in it. You have squatter’s rights for about three months. It takes them about three to six months to get you out. So we did that; had no electricity and no gas. Then I went to Italy. They came back and threw everything out the windows; everything! All the furniture. So when I came back from Italy to see my dad I went to stay with my grandparents in their living room for like a week and they couldn’t handle it and told me I had to go. So I just went out on the streets.
So you grew up with kind of a harsh life. That was very difficult. But then again, was that the only thing you knew?
You have no choice, what do you do? This is difficult… what you have to do. Ok, well you could find other people that are homeless and start hanging out with them. It’s kind of cool. You have a little community. You have the musicians that entertain everybody. You have the kids that know the pipes, how to get the water running and kids that get the electricity running, and kids that know how to deal with the cops when they come over. So you have a little community of kids that all kind of hang out together and do their part. And I was the musician.
Let’s get back to your father for a little bit because that seems like infirm ground for me to understand. Did he influence you to take on music?
My dad wasn’t around. My dad left when I was about six or seven. Since then I’ve seen my dad probably about 15 times. I read that you played music professionally with your dad in 1975. Well, yea, that was when my dad was playing a concert. I was like 6. I got on one of the drum kits at one of his concerts and started playing. I didn’t play with him. I just started playing the drums. That’s all that was.
I went to see my dad in Italy around the time we were getting evicted. I was with him for about three months. So I had three months of intense drum lessons. Basically I used that for the rest of my life really, what he taught me in those three months and I just expanded on it.
Who bought you the kit?
Well, nobody got me a kit. My dad had seen me play drums for a while so he put one of his bass drums and snare at the old house. I had a few broken cymbals so I pieced together a kit with a kick drum, snare drum and high hat with two broken cymbals, and a couple of old snares. That was it. That was my kit.
I had little African drums that I found in the house that I played. It wasn’t until I was 14 or something when my dad got a new kit and gave me his old kit. So I didn’t have a kit until I was 14. That’s when I started practicing and getting into drums more seriously; when I had a full kit. I also play keyboards but I’m not great at it. I used the keyboards to help me write music.
It seems we all have father/son stories that are laced with longing. Is there anything you can label as regret when you think about your father?
Not really because I did everything I could. I followed him around the world. I followed him to Colorado, LA; wherever he was I tried to make it so I was around and I could get to know him. So there’s nothing really I regret, as I did everything I could. He’s the one that kind of pushed me away and I don’t know why.
I think he has a history of pushing people away.
Well yea that’s probably what it is. It’s just him. It’s what he does. He can’t really get close to anybody.
I’ve read about your music: polyrhythmic music and drums and this other dimension you have with this great ear as a drummer.
Polyrhythm is very important. My dad taught me about it at a very young age. Very important for any musician to be able to play polyrhythms. I was about 14 or 15 when I learned polyrhythms.
You’ve been playing a long time now.
Yea, I’ve been playing since I was 3 or 4; professionally since I was 15. I’m 46 so that’s almost 32 years I’ve been playing professionally.
It’s difficult to work so many years, especially in a profession where you have to move around, tour and things like that. So I really give you a lot of respect.
I like it. It’s what I do. I talk to people all the time, like in the gym yesterday I saw some people that were like “oh yea I got work and I gotta do this” and I’m like “I haven’t worked a day in my life”. I mean I have but I don’t consider what I do work. I know its work but I love what I’m doing. So it’s more like fun.
What is your favorite genre of music?
I don’t really have one. I like it all as long as it’s good. I like good pop, good jazz. As long as it’s really good, well done, has a catchy melody or something in it that’s nice then I’m all for it. I like it. I like everything, I’ve played everything. I’ve played in country bands, jazz bands and rock bands. I’ve even done a little heavy metal. I don’t really pound the drums so I was a bit lost because I am a bit more finesse, a bit more jazzy in terms of my style. When I play the Cream stuff I get into the groove… because it’s great.
I heard you performed with Jack Bruce several times.
Jack was great and so is his son. His son is an amazing bass player. Me and his son have something weird where we get together and it falls apart.
I just talked to a friend of mine that played at White’s Bar several times, Alex White. She is out of White Mystery. Her brother is the band and she is the singer.
I met them. They live in Chicago. They are great, really cool people. They are doing very well for themselves. Yea it’s hard, but as a musician it’s what you have to do so you do it, you know.
My wife lived in Hobart, Indiana. I heard you live there?
I do at the moment but not sure how long. I bought a house here but I’m kind of regretting it a bit. I like the house but the area seems to be very young. The only people here are like really young. As soon as they are about 25-26 they have two kids. By the time they’re 30 they have 3 kids. I’m 47 and really in shape. So I can’t find anyone in my age group that I can date. The love of my life wouldn’t leave CA. She stayed in CA and I moved here. It was pretty much after my mom died. I had a bit of a disaster a year and a half ago when I moved.
Yours is a story of resilience! You’ve been through trials and tribulations
Yea, I was completely screwed over. But now I’m regretting leaving California because I’m still in love with my girlfriend and she’s still there and wouldn’t come out here. I might have to go back and get her back!
Can I read off a name and you give me your impression?
Great Guy! I worked with him when I was like 15-16 or so. Yea he’s a great guy, very cool.
Steve Marriot was like my dad. He took me in and looked after me. He took me in when I was like 18-19. He really was like my dad. He taught me a lot. He took me in, took me under his wing.
Jack was a good guy too, a bit unstable at times, but a good guy. I liked Jack. I think I got along better with Jack than I did with my dad at times. I could talk to Jack and he seemed very nice. I didn’t meet him very many times, but when I met him and played with him it was really good fun.
Do you have any last words or comments?
Use a picture where I look single.
Kofi Baker performs at White’s Bar, 2609 State St. in Saginaw, on Saturday, May 7th. Showtime starts at 9:00 PM and admission is $5.00.
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THE NEW GILDED AGE (Part 2)