Former drummer, composer, and songwriter of Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Tony Allen, has passed away. Allen died in Paris, France, on Thursday.
As a member of Kuti’s band Africa 70, Allen helped revolutionize the art of drumming, appearing on classic albums like 1973’s Gentleman, 1975’s Expensive Shit, and the Afrobeat legend’s most enduring work, 1976’s Zombie according to Rollingstone.
Speaking about Tony, Fela once said there is no drummer there would be no Afrobeat without Tony. He also stated that there is no drummer like Allen.
Allen’s career and life story have been 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.
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 afro-funk.
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.
The cause of Allen’s death has not yet been revealed.