13 December 2016 - TONY ALLEN - AFROBEAT


G'day folks,

Tony Oladipo Allen is a Nigerian drummer, composer and songwriter who currently lives and works in Paris.

Nigeria of the late ‘60s was bursting with musical invention and political resistance. At the center of this fertile scene was percussionist Tony Allen, the premier drummer and a key architect of the sound known as Afrobeat.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous city, Allen taught himself to drum. His only formal education was through his father’s record collection, which largely consisted of traditional Yoruba, a form of percussive folk music highly popular throughout West Africa. While working as an engineer for a local radio station, Allen was also exposed to American jazz and a burgeoning Ghanaian highlife scene, distinguished by upbeat, Western-inflected, but distinctly African pop music.

Joining with Fela Kuti in 1964, Allen formed highlife combo Koola Lobitas. This collaboration would set both musicians on a path toward legendary status. Following their 1969 tour through a United States riven by protest, Fela, Allen, and company returned home with a new mission.

Renaming his unit Fela and Africa ’70, Kuti adapted a new musical approach that took direct aim at Nigeria’s military dictatorship. With Allen at the kit, Africa ’70 created a highly charged, politically provocative musical hybrid called Afrobeat. Afrobeat turned highlife loose with long instrumental grooves, politically provocative themes, soulful exhortations, and—courtesy of Tony Allen—furiously-paced polyrhythmic beats. Africa ’70 gave way to an explosion of creativity, spawning a legion of like-minded young musicians and proliferating its sound throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.

Over a matter of disputed royalties, Tony Allen departed his bandleader in the late 1970s, taking a few of Fela’s sidemen with him. Allen’s solo career not only continued to expand on the creative terrain occupied by Afrobeat, but also led to his coinage of Afrofunk. Increasingly compelled by the role of western forms like rock, electronic music, and hip hop, Tony Allen has become well-known for his collaborations with younger musicians like Blur’s Damon Albarn, Air, and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

To be certain, the late Fela Kuti was the leading force in the creation of Afrobeat. As bandleader, multi-instrumentalist, singer, and outsized persona, Fela was not just Africa’s most important popular musician, but also a spiritual and political leader fulfilling a role not unlike that which Bob Marley occupied for Jamaica. As his musical foil and the only member of Fela’s band also responsible for authoring his own arrangements, Tony Allen is a key architect without whom there would be no Afrobeat.

Allen continues to assert his relevance to date. With more than 70 records already under his belt as a bandleader, sideman, and collaborator, Allen earned widespread acclaim for a solo album released just last year, at age 74.

Clancy's comment:  Another champion musician.

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