Tony Allen, the pioneering drummer who helped to establish the afrobeat genre with long-time bandmate Fela Kuti, has died in Paris. He was 79 years old.
Allen is best known as the drummer and musical director of Kuti’s groundbreaking Nigerian musical outfit Africa 70, who throughout the ‘70s helped to popularise African music in the West in a way that had rarely been achieved prior. Through his signature polyrhythmic grooves and Kuti’s politically-charged lyrics, the duo and their bandmates defined “afrobeat”, a genre that fused the traditional sounds of West Africa with American funk and jazz.
In the late ‘70s Allen formed his own group, developing afrobeat further with albums like ‘No Accommodation for Lagos’ and ‘No Discrimination’, before moving to Paris in the mid-‘80s. He experienced a resurgence in popularity in the mid-2000s, contributing to the works of several French electronic artists including Sébastian Tellier, Air and Comet Records’ Doctor L. He would also enjoy an extended working relationship with Damon Albarn, playing drums for The Good, The Bad and The Queen in 2007 and 2018, and for Rocket Juice & The Moon, a project that also included The Red Hot Chilli Peppers bassist Flea, in 2012.
RIP Tony Allen.