Remembering Tony Allen

Wow.. one of the greats has gone on….. Tony Allen, longtime drummer for Fela Kuti passed away on Aoril 2020.

Pioneering Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, a co-founder of the afrobeat musical genre, died in Paris at aged 79.

Eric Trosset told NPR radio that he had died of a heart attack and that his death was not linked to coronavirus.

Allen was the drummer and musical director of musician Fela Kuti’s famous band Africa ’70 in the 1960-70s.

Fela, as he was widely known, died in 1997. He once said that “without Tony Allen, there would be no afrobeat”.

Afrobeat combines elements of West Africa’s fuji music and highlife styles with American funk and jazz.

World stars pay their tributes

Allen has also been described by UK musician Brian Eno as “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived”.

Trosset led tributes in a Facebook post saying “your eyes saw what most couldn’t see… as you used to say: ‘There is no end'”.

Beninois singer Angelique Kidjo told the BBC’s Newsday programme that she had been hit hard by both Allen’s death and the passing of Cameroonian saxophone legend Manu Dibango in March. On Instagram, she said that Allen had “changed the history of African music”.

Ghanaian rapper M.anifest tweeted that Allen “put the beat in afrobeat” and thanked him “for a lifetime of being quietly epic”.

Twitter post by @manifestive: You put the beat in Afrobeat. A giant. Rest in paradise and thank you for a lifetime of being quietly epic. Honored that some of my most memorable times on this journey were in studios and on stages with you. Journey well Tony Allen 🕊🖤

Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, who spent time with Allen in London, called him “one of the greatest drummers to ever walk this earth” and described him as his “hero”.

“What a wildman, with a massive, kind and free heart and the deepest one-of-a-kind groove,” Flea said on Instagram.

Tony Allen
Image captionAllen is credited with inventing the afrobeat genre with Fela Kuti

One of Fela’s sons, musician Seun Kuti, tweeted “rest in power and journey well”.

Who was Tony Allen?

We paused to speak with Sandra Izsadore, who was an essential part of the musical genius that was Fela Kuti. She came through the live streamed talk show called @coffee conversations with Greg J. to share about her life with Tony and what he meant to the world. It was a tearful yet heartfult tribute. You can see the entire show here.

Allen first met Fela in 1964, and they went on to record dozens of albums in Africa ’70, including Gentleman and Zombie.

Allen left the band in 1979, after reported rifts with the band leader over royalties. Fela needed four separate drummers to fill the void.

Allen emigrated to London in 1984, and later moved to Paris.

He collaborated with a number of artists during his long music career, and was the drummer in The Good, the Bad & the Queen, with Damon Albarn, Paul Simenon and Simon Tong.