Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen dies aged 79
Pioneering Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, a co-founder of the afrobeat musical genre, died in Paris on Thursday aged 79, his manager says.
“We don’t know the exact cause of death,” Eric Trosset told AFP, adding it was not linked to the 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”.
Allen has also been described by UK musician Brian Eno as “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived”.
Allen’s career and life story were documented in his 2013 autobiography Tony Allen: Master Drummer of Afrobeat,
Afrobeat combines elements of West Africa’s fuji music and highlife styles with American funk and jazz.
Allen, who was born in Lagos in 1940, taught himself how to play drums when he was 18.
He said he learnt his technique by mimicking American jazz drummer Max Roach.
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.