Tony Allen (musician)

Tony Oladipo Allen ( July 20th 1940 – 30 April 2020) was a Nigerian drummer, composer, and songwriter who lived and worked in Paris, France. Allen was the drummer and musical director of Fela Kuti's band Africa '70 from 1968 to 1979, and was one of the primary co-founders of the genre of Afrobeat music. Fela once stated that, "without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat."[1] He was described by Brian Eno as "perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived".[2]

Tony Allen
Allen at Oslo Jazzfestival 2015
Allen at Oslo Jazzfestival 2015
Background information
Birth nameTony Oladipo Allen
Born(1940 -07-20)20 July 1940
Lagos, British Nigeria
Died30 April 2020(2020-04-30) (aged 79)
Paris, France
Genres
Occupation(s)
  • Drummer
  • composer
  • songwriter
Instruments
  • Drums
  • percussion
Years active1968–2020
Associated acts
Tony Allen at the Eurockéennes of 2007

Allen's career and life story were documented in his 2013 autobiography Tony Allen: Master Drummer of Afrobeat, co-written with author/musician Michael E. Veal, who previously wrote a comprehensive biography of Fela Kuti.[3]

Early careerEdit

Allen was born in Lagos, Nigeria.[4] He began playing drums at the age of 18, while working as an engineer for a radio station. Allen was influenced by music his father listened to Jùjú, a popular Yoruba music from the 1940s, but also American jazz, and the growing highlife scene in Nigeria and Ghana. Allen worked hard to develop a unique voice on the drums, feverishly studying LPs and magazine articles by Max Roach and Art Blakey, but also revolutionary Ghanaian drummer Guy Warren (later known as Kofi Ghanaba – who developed a highly sought-after sound that mixed tribal Ghanaian drumming with bop – working with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Max Roach).

Allen was hired by "Sir" Victor Olaiya to play claves with his highlife band, the Cool Cats. Allen was able to fill the drum set chair when the former Cool Cats drummer left the band. Allen later played with Agu Norris and the Heatwaves, the Nigerian Messengers, and the Melody Makers.

Fela and Africa '70Edit

In 1964, Fela Kuti invited Allen to audition for a jazz-highlife band he was forming. Kuti and Allen had played together as sidemen in the Lagos circuit. Fela complimented Allen's unique sound: "How come you are the only guy in Nigeria who plays like this – jazz and highlife?" Thus Allen became an original member of Kuti's "Koola Lobitos" highlife-jazz band.

In 1969, following a turbulent and educational trip to the United States, Allen served as the musical director of Fela's band, Africa '70,[5] which developed a new militant African sound, mixing the heavy groove and universal appeal of soul with jazz, highlife, and the polyrhythmic template of Yoruba conventions. Allen developed a novel style to complement Fela's new African groove that blended these disparate genres.

Allen recounted how he and Fela wrote in 1970: "Fela used to write out the parts for all the musicians in the band (Africa '70). I was the only one who originated the music I played. Fela would ask what type of rhythm I wanted to play.… You can tell a good drummer because we… have four limbs… and they are… playing different things… the patterns don't just come from Yoruba… [but] other parts of Nigeria and Africa."[6]

Allen recorded more than 30 albums with Fela and Africa '70. But by the late 1970s, dissension was growing in the ranks of Africa '70. Arguments over royalties/pay and recognition grew in intensity. As inventor of the rhythms that underpinned Afrobeat and musical director, Allen felt especially slighted. Fela stood his ground, stating that he would get the royalties for his songs. Fela did support Allen's three solo recordings: Jealousy ('75), Progress ('77), No Accommodation For Lagos ('79), but by 1979, Allen chose to leave Africa '70, taking many members with him. "'What makes me decide it's time to go? It's … everything...and (his) carelessness...like he doesn't care, like he doesn't know ...he doesn't feel he's done anything (wrong). And with all the parasites around too.... there were 71 people on tour by now and only 30 working in the band....you got to ask why. Those guys were sapping Fela of his Force, of his Music.' So Tony moved on, once again in search of his own sound."

Afrobeat to AfrofunkEdit

Allen formed his own group, recording No Discrimination in 1980, and performing in Lagos until emigrating to London in 1984. Later moving to Paris, Allen recorded with King Sunny Adé, Ray Lema and Manu Dibango. Allen recorded N.E.P.A. in 1985.

Post-Fela, Allen developed a hybrid sound, deconstructing and fusing Afrobeat with electronica, dub, R&B, and rap. Allen refers to this synthesis as afrofunk.

Allen returned with a much anticipated new project for his 13th release. Recorded live in Lagos, with a full-sized Afrobeat band, Lagos No Shaking (Lagos is OK) signified Allen's return to roots Afrobeat after forays into avant-garde electronica hybrids. Lagos No Shaking was released on 13 June 2006.

Later workEdit

In 2002, Allen appeared on the Red Hot Organization's compilation album Red Hot and Riot in tribute to Fela Kuti. Allen appeared alongside Res, Ray Lema, Baaba Maal, Positive Black Soul and Archie Shepp on a track entitled "No Agreement."

Allen played drums throughout the 2003 album Love Trap by Susheela Raman and also performed with her live.

In 2004 Allen recorded with French electronic artist Sébastien Tellier on the album Politics including the hit song "La Ritournelle".

In 2006 Allen recorded the album trippin with the Amsterdam based New Cool Collective Mixing his Afrobeat with jazz and did a series of concerts in the Netherlands, among then the Lowlands Festival.

In 2006, Allen joined with Damon Albarn, Paul Simonon, and Simon Tong as drummer for The Good, the Bad & the Queen.

Allen played drums on two tracks on the 2007 album 5:55 by Charlotte Gainsbourg: "5:55" and "Night-Time Intermission", backed by French duo Air and Jarvis Cocker of Pulp.

He also made an appearance playing the drums in the video for "Once Upon a Time" by French duo Air in late 2007.

He was a featured artist on Zap Mama's albums Supermoon (2007) and ReCreation (2009), adding his voice to the tracks "1000 Ways" and "African Diamond." Allen also contributed drums on "People Dansa", an afrobeat rhythm-fuelled track on the second album of the Brazilian singer Flavia Coelho, released in 2014.[7]

His album entitled Secret Agent was released in June 2009 by World Circuit.[8]

Allen has influenced a range of artists across a number of genres. In the single "Music Is My Radar" (2000) Blur pay homage to him, and the song ends with Damon Albarn repeating the phrase "Tony Allen got me dancing."[9]

Allen collaborated with Albarn and Flea in a project called Rocket Juice and The Moon with an album released in 2012. Albarn collaborated with him again for the single "Go Back" in 2014, that is part of the album Film of Life, released in October.

Allen replaced Vladislav Delay as drummer for the Moritz Von Oswald Trio and appeared on their album Sounding Lines.

In 2017, he released A Tribute to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, a four-song EP on Blue Note Records featuring a reworked Afrobeat version of Art Blakey's "Moanin'".

In 2017, Allen collaborated with Malian singer Oumou Sangaré for the track "Yere faga" from her album Mogoya.

In 2018, Allen recorded E.P. Tomorrow Comes The Harvest with Techno DJ Jeff Mills.

In 2019, filmmaker Opiyo Okeyo released the documentary film Birth of Afrobeat about Allen's life in music.[10][11] The film screened at American Black Film Festival and won the 21st Century Fox Global Inclusion Award for Emerging Voices at the BlackStar Film Festival.[12][13] Birth of Afrobeat was acquired by American Public Television and had its television premiere January 20, 2020 on PBS. [14][15]

In 2020, Allen featured on the Gorillaz track "How Far?" alongside Skepta, as part of the band's Song Machine series.

DeathEdit

On April 30, 2020, Allen died of abdominal aortic aneurysm at Georges Pompidou European Hospital in Paris.[4] Tributes came from musicians and producers including Flea, Peter Gabriel, Jeff Mills, Nigel Godrich, Sean Lennon, and Damon Albarn.[4][16]

DiscographyEdit

Tony Allen discography
Year Title Artist Label
1969 Koola Lobitos (64–68) / The '69 Los Angeles Sessions Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1970 Fela's London Scene Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1971 Live! Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1971 Open & Close Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1972 Roforofo Fight Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1972 Shakara Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1973 Afrodisiac Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1973 Gentleman Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1974 Confusion Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1974 He Miss Road Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1975 Jealousy Tony Allen Soundworkshop
1975 Alagbon Close Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1975 Everything Scatter Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1975 Excuse O Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1975 Expensive Shit Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1975 Monkey Banana Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1975 Noise For Vendor Mouth Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1976 Ikoyi Blindness Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1976 Kalakuta Show Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1976 Na Poi Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1976 Unnecessary Begging Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1976 Upside Down Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1976 Yellow Fever Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 Progress Tony Allen Phonogram
1977 Fear Not For Man Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 J.J.D – Live at Kalakuta Republik Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 No Agreement Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 Opposite People Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 Sorrow Tears and Blood Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 Shuffering and Shmiling Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 Stalemate Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 Zombie Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1979 No Accommodation for Lagos Tony Allen Phonogram
1979 Unknown Soldier Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1979 V.I.P. Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1979 No Discrimination Tony Allen and the Afro Messengers Shanu Olu Records
1980 Music of Many Colours Fela Anikulapo Kuti / Roy Ayers Barclay
1985 Never Expect Power Always (aka N.E.P.A.) Tony Allen with Afrobeat 2000 Moving Target
1986 I Go Shout Plenty Fela Anikulapo Kuti Afrodisia
1987 Too Many Prisoners Tony Allen with Zebra Crossing Barclay
1998 Ariya Tony Allen Comet
1999 Black Voices Tony Allen Comet
1999 Ariya (remixes) Tony Allen Comet
1999 The Two Sides of Fela – Jazz & Dance Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1999 Racubah! – A Collection of Modern Afro Rhythms Various Artists Comet
2000 Black Voices Alternate take Featuring Mike "clip" Payne Tony Allen Comet
2000 Black Voices Remixed Tony Allen Comet
2000 Mountains Will Never Surrender Doctor L Jive
2000 The Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble Part 1 Various Artists Comet
2000 The Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble Part 2 Various Artists Comet
2000 The Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble Part 3 Various Artists Comet
2000 Modern Answers To Old Problems Ernest Ranglin Telarc
2000 Afrobeat...No Go Die! Various Artists Shanachie
2001 The Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble Various Artists Comet
2001 The Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble Part 4 Various Artists Comet
2001 The Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble Part 5 Various Artists Comet
2001 The Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble Part 6 Various Artists Comet
2001 Psyco On Da Bus Tony Allen, Doctor L, Jean Phi Dary, Jeff Kellner, Cesar Anot Comet
2002 Homecooking Tony Allen Wrasse Records
2002 Every Season Tony Allen Comet
2002 Eager Hands & Restless Feet Tony Allen Wrasse Records
2004 Awa Band Bababatteur Ekosound
2004 Live Tony Allen Comet
2006 Trippin New Cool Collective Dox Records
2006 Lagos No Shaking Tony Allen Astralwerks
2007 The Good, the Bad & the Queen The Good, the Bad & the Queen EMI
2007 5:55 Charlotte Gainsbourg Because/Vice
2009 Secret Agent Tony Allen World Circuit Records
2009 Inspiration Information 4 Jimi Tenor & Tony Allen Strut Records
2012 Rocket Juice & the Moon Rocket Juice & the Moon Honest Jon's
2013 The Rough Guide to African Disco Various Artists World Music Network
2014 Film of Life Tony Allen JazzVillage
2017 A Tribute to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers Tony Allen Blue Note Records
2017 The Source Tony Allen Blue Note Records
2017 What Goes Up Chicago Afrobeat Project Chicago Afrobeat Project
2017 Mandela Effect Gonjasufi Warp
2018 Merrie Land The Good, the Bad & the Queen Studio 13
2020 Rejoice Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela World Circuit Records
2020 How Far? Gorillaz, Tony Allen & Skepta Studio 13

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Williamson, Nigel (18 January 2008). "Tony Allen: The veteran Afrobeat drummer is shaking his sticks as hard and as brilliantly as ever". The Independent. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
  2. ^ Patterson, Ian (24 December 2007). "Steve Reid: Staying in the Rhythms". Allaboutjazz.com. Retrieved 22 April 2008.
  3. ^ "Tony Allen: An Autobiography of the Master Drummer of Afrobeat". Duke University Press. Retrieved 7 October 2013.
  4. ^ a b c Daniel Kreps; Elias Leight (30 April 2020). "Tony Allen, Pioneering Afrobeat Drummer, Dead at 79". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 1 May 2020.
  5. ^ Pareles, Jon (2 May 2020). "Tony Allen, Drummer Who Created the Beat of Afrobeat, Dies at 79". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  6. ^ Graeme Ewens, Africa O-Ye!, 1991.
  7. ^ ""FLAVIA COELHO - Les Musiciens du 2e Album 'Mundo Meu'"". YouTube.
  8. ^ Tony Allen – Feature, Musicfeeds.com.au. Retrieved 15 March 2009.
  9. ^ "Damon Albarn and Paul Simonon – Features – Music, Time Out London". Archived from the original on 20 November 2006.
  10. ^ Eyre, Banning (17 May 2018). "25th New York African Film Festival Launches". Afropop Worldwide. Retrieved 20 June 2019.
  11. ^ "The Nigerian Shorts Program at This Year's New York African Film Festival Challenges the Nollywood Status Quo". OkayAfrica. 21 May 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  12. ^ "BlackStar Qualifying Award Winners". Gravitas Ventures. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  13. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (6 June 2019). "American Black Film Festival To Feature 'The Black Godfather', Spike Lee, HBO Short Film Finalists And More". Deadline. Retrieved 21 October 2019.
  14. ^ [1], PBS.org. Retrieved 15 March 2020.
  15. ^ Kreps, Daniel (3 May 2020). "See Tony Allen Break Down Afrobeat's Major Drum Patterns in Unseen Doc Clip". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  16. ^ "Pioneering Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen has died, aged 79". NME Music News, Reviews, Videos, Galleries, Tickets and Blogs | NME.COM. 1 May 2020. Retrieved 2 May 2020.

External linksEdit