Nigerian musician and composer Tony Allen was one of the greatest drummers ever. On April 30th, 2020, he died at the age of 79. A legend. He worked with Fela Kuti (and the band Africa ’70) from 1968 to 1979 and was considered as one of the Afrobeat piooners, combining funk lines, jazz textures and West African Music.
Angélique Kidjo remembered him, via The Guardian, with wonderful and touching words: “I had never met someone so positive, it was crazy. With Tony, it’s always about what can make the music beautiful, what can bring music to people’s hearts, what can make them dance. He never bitched about anything, never blamed anyone for anything.
He stayed as long as he could with the oppression in Nigeria with Fela. For his own sake, he had to leave to have a career. But was really grateful of the experience of being at the forefront, at the roots of Afrobeat. With Fela’s band, the horns, the singing, everybody can go wherever they want, because they know when they come back, they know there’s something holding them: Tony. He completely changed the way of playing drums: instead of hitting them hard, he put the percussionist’s role into the drums. The cowbell is always the driver of Afrobeat, and that’s why he plays so laid back. I’m looking at him, like: “You don’t even sweat. I’m singing and sweating – come on Tony, man, don’t rub it in, sweat a little bit!” But he said: “No, I never sweat.”
We select 7 tracks which represent, in a small way, his great path with a focus on his recent works.
The Same Blood – Tony Allen (Black Voices, 1999)
Je’nwi Temi (Don’t Gag Me) – Fela Kuti (Afrodisiac, 1973)
Never Satisfied – Psyco On Da Bus (Psyco On Da Bus, 2001)
Behind The Sun – The Good, The Bad & The Queen (2007)
Moanin’ – Tony Allen (The Source, 2017)
The Seed – Tony Allen & Jeff Mills (Tomorrow Comes The Harvest, 2018)
Etherwave – Gonjasufi (Mandela Effect, 2017)