In many respects, drummer Ginger Baker (1939 – )
has led a peripatetic and tragic life. Anyone wishing to
learn about it is encouraged to watch
“Beware of Mr. Baker,” a film released in 2012.
The 1971 film, “Ginger Baker in Africa,” directed and
edited by Tony Palmer isn’t so much a documentary
as it is a series of vignettes with footage of Baker,
during what was probably his first African sojourn.
Much of his subsequent life would be spent there.
Baker serves as the narrator of this crudely made film
which was newly re-released on DVD, under the Eagle
Vision label. The 54-minute film basically depicts Baker
and one or two of his friends traveling south by car,
from Algeria in North Africa to Lagos, Nigeria. Baker’s
narrative is delivered in a quasi-poetic style which
was almost reminiscent of his song,
“Pressed, Rat and Warthog,” from Cream’s
“Wheels of Fire” album. Throughout the film, an
African percussion soundtrack dominates, with footage
of tribal dancers in various states of frenzy. Clearly,
Baker enjoys playing with these musicians, either
at his drum set or on a “talking drum.” There’s even
footage of him interacting with Nigerian composer and
multi-instrumentalist, Fela Kuti.
There’s no comparison between this film and
Tony Palmer’s later endeavors on the lives of composers,
such as Gustav Holst, Benjamin Britten and
Ralph Vaughan-Williams. It’s best to view it as a slice
of Ginger Baker’s fascinating life; an important “page” of it,
if you will. Although it has been digitally remastered in
recent years, Baker’s voice and the overall sound quality
is nonetheless primitive. However, fans of the drummer
will still want to watch this DVD. I’m glad that I did.