Saying farewell today to a giant of African music, Nigerian drummer Tony Allen. Tony Allen passed away last Thursday aged 79. Amazingly, Allen only started playing drums when he was 18; he threw himself into studying drumming, particularly American Jazz drummers and different styles of Yoruba drumming. He joined a band Fela Kuti was forming in 1964, which mixed Jazz and Highlife. After a year spent in the US in 1969, they came back to Nigeria and the groundbreaking band Africa 70 was born. Tony Allen became the musical director of Africa 70 and was key in forming their new, revolutionary sound which became known as Afrobeat. His unique rhythm and drumming style was born out of many influences: a mix of Highlife, different traditional styles of Yoruba drumming, American Jazz, Funk and R&B. His 15 year partnership with Fela, lasting until 1979, was extraordinary, volatile, troubled, and extremely creative. After Tony Allen split with Fela Kuti, he ended up in Paris and continued developing his unique style. He called the music he made in the 80's and 90's Afrofunk and collaborated with many musicians from all over the globe. His most recent release was an amazing 2010 collaboration with the late Hugh Masekela. Today's show will feature a set, programmed by Tony Daye, charting Allen's career from his time with Fela in the 70's to his most recent recordings; as well as some of my favourite glorious long takes of Tony Allen, Fela Kuti and Africa 70.
|Tony's playlist, starting in 1975.|
|Water No Get Enemy|
Fela Kuti with Africa 70 - Expensive Shit - Barclay
|Tony Allen's second album leading Africa 70 without Fela from 1977.|
|Afro Disc Beat|
Tony Allen with Africa 70 - Progress - Phonogram
|From one of his first albums after he split with Fela for good, from 1985.|
Tony Allen with Afrobeat 2000 - Never Expect Power Always - Earthworks
|An example of Tony Allen's heavy use of electronics during the 90's, from 1999.|
Tony Allen - Black Voices - Comet
Tony Allen - Homecooking - Comet
Tony Allen - Secret Agent - World Circuit
|Tony Allen's final release (but not his final recording), recorded in 2010 with Hugh Masekela, but only finished this past year. I was shocked by his death, I had just watched two days before, on Facebook Live, a listening party with Tony Allen, Nick Gold from World Circuit, and Hugh Masekela's nephew and spokesperson Mabusha Masekela where they listened to tracks from "Rejoice!" and spoke about the recording and life. Tony Allen was in his home in Paris and seemed in fine health. No one expected his sudden death only 2 days later. You can still watch Tony Allen's "Rejoice!" listening party here:
|Robbers, Thugs and Muggers|
Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela - Rejoice - World Circuit
|We will finish this tribute to Tony Allen with two fantastic long sessions from the heyday with Fela Kuti and Africa 70. I find they were at their best with extremely long pieces where Tony Allen would develop an irresistible groove which evolved gradually over the whole side of an LP. Tony Allen was never aggressive in his drumming, it was always warm and inviting. Usually the first half would be instrumental with the drums, percussion, interlocking patterns on several basses and electric guitars and just incredible brass. The second half would introduce the vocals, often Fela telling a very pointed political story.
The first track "J.J.D." was recorded live at Fela's commune he named the "Kalakuta Republic". The second, "Unknown Soldier", he wrote in response to one of several government raids on his compound where Fela was nearly beaten to death and his mother was killed. Fela recounts in vivid detail the raid in an epic half-hour odyssey.
|J.J.D. "Johnny Just Drop"|
Fela Kuti with Africa 70 - J.J.D. "Johnny Just Drop" - Wrasse
Fela Kuti with Africa 70 - Unkown Soldier - Wrasse