Friday, 12th April 2024

Tribute concert for Fela’s drummer, Tony Allen

By Maria Diamond
29 December 2019   |   3:29 am
Ace Afrobeat drummer and former member of Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s band, Tony Allen, will be honoured today

CEO of Inspiro Productions, Mr. Ayoola Sadare (left) and Afrobeat legend, Tony Allen… in Paris, France

• As Inspiro+Zome Naijazz-Afrobeat Tribute Concert Hold In Lagos

Ace Afrobeat drummer and former member of Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s band, Tony Allen, will be honoured today, as Inspiro Productions, Zome International and Metroventures hold a tribute concert at the upscale Reserve Lounge, Victoria Island, Lagos.

Chief Executive Officer, Inspiro Productions and founder/organiser of Lagos International Jazz Festival, Mr. Ayoola Sadare, said, “Tony Allen is our very own living legend worthy of celebration and once the opportunity came for us to do so, we jumped at it. His impact on Afrobeat, Jazz and World music is undeniable. In Europe and on the global music scene, he is still very active, highly recognized, well sought-after, and respected for his contributions to music generally.

“As he turns 80 next year, we want to be one of the first to wish him a happy birthday in advance here in Nigeria with this event, as we know many other things are being planned to celebrate him around the world. Allen is a worthy cultural ambassador of Nigerian-African music and we are extremely proud of him and honoured to be able to celebrate him, too. This tribute also comes as recognition of the impact the musical creation he was part of birthing, Afrobeat, is making waves globally and the many fusions it has created and interest it continues to generate. Afrobeat has given Nigerian music an identity that has moved it from the general world music category to being in a genre of its own like reggae and others. Allen, playing and collaborating alongside Fela Kuti, ensured and shaped the genre of music. We use this concert to recognise that strong contribution.”

Tony Oladipo Allen was born in 1940 in Lagos, Nigeria and currently lives and works in Paris, France. His 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. As drummer and musical director of Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s band ‘Africa ‘70’ from 1968 to 1979, Allen was one of the primary co-founders of the genre of Afrobeat music and Fela once stated that, “without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat.

He has also been described by Brian Eno as “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived. A self-taught musician, Allen began playing the drum kit at the age of 18 while working as an engineer for a Nigerian radio station. Influenced by the music his father listened to, including juju and also American jazz, and the growing highlife scene in Nigeria and Ghana, Tony worked hard to develop a unique voice on the drums, feverishly studying LPs and magazine articles by Max Roach and Art Blakey, but also revolutionary Ghanaian drummer Guy Warren (later known as Kofi Ghanaba, who developed a highly sought-after sound that mixed tribal Ghanaian drumming with bop – working with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Max Roach). Allen was hired by “Sir” Victor Olaiya to play claves with his highlife band, the Cool Cats and he was able to fill the drum set chair when the former Cool Cats drummer left the band. He later played with Agu Norris and the Heatwaves, the Nigerian Messengers, and the Melody Makers.

In 1964, Fela Kuti invited Allen to audition for a jazz-highlife band he was forming as they had played together as sidemen in the Lagos circuit. Allen became an original member of Fela’s ‘Koola Lobitos’ highlife-jazz band. In 1969, following a turbulent and educational trip to the United States, Fela and the newly renamed ‘Africa ‘70’ band developed a new militant African sound, mixing the heavy groove and universal appeal of soul with jazz, highlife, and the polyrhythmic template of Yoruba conventions. Allen developed a novel style to complement Fela’s new African groove that blended these disparate genres.

With Fela and ‘Africa ‘70,’ Allen recorded more than 30 albums and by 1979, Allen chose to leave ‘Africa ‘70’ once again in search of his own sound.” Allen formed his own group, recording No Discrimination in 1980, and performing in Lagos until emigrating to London in 1984, then later moving to Paris. Tony has played with numerous local and international artistes to critical world acclaim. The NAIJAZZ Afrobeat tribute will have Allen flying in from Paris, France, to play alongside Gboyega Adelaja (late Hugh Masekela’s keyboardist), Empress, Adunni Nefertiti, Temmie Ovwasa and a host of others.