Photo: Chiaki Nozu/WireImage
Tony Allen, Influential Nigerian Drummer & Co-Founder Of Afrobeat, Dies At 79
Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen, the man Brian Eno once described as "perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived," died of a heart attack yesterday in Paris. He was 79 years old.
Allen is known as a co-founder of Afrobeat for his groundbreaking work with his musical compatriot Fela Kuti in the '60s and '70s as drummer and musical director for Kuti's group Africa '70. The musical style they created together combined West African fuji music with American jazz and funk for some powerfully rhythmic and original that continues to influence musicians in many genres today.
"The epic Tony Allen, one of the greatest drummers to ever walk this earth has left us," Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea wrote in a tribute post. "What a wildman, with a massive, kind and free heart and the deepest one-of-a-kind groove. Fela Kuti did not invent afrobeat, Fela and Tony birthed it together."
The Nigerian drummer moved to Paris after Kuti died in 1997 and continued to perform and record in a variety of styles, working with French musician Doctor L and English musician Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz. Allen published his autobiography, Tony Allen: An Autobiography of the Master Drummer of Afrobeat, in 2013.
GRAMMY winner Angélique Kidjo mourned Allen on BBC's Newsday, saying, "What I want to remember from them is our musical conversation, our laughter, our joy. They are gone, but they are not gone for me."
Rest In Power to Tony Allen, The Godfather of Afrobeat Rhythms," wrote GRAMMY-nominated artist Jidenna. "Thank you for giving us the sound that would change our lives and our destiny as a people."