Tony Allen (1940 – 2020) was a Nigerian musician and drummer.
The importance of Allen? You simply cannot imagine Fela Kuti nor afrobeat without the drumming of Tony Allen during the period 1968 to 1979.
After parting with Fela Kuti it would take time for Allen to find his own sound.
This happened with the sublime EP Never Expect Power Always (1984), one of my favorite afrobeat compositions.
Other solo work of note includes Black Voices (1999), Tomorrow Comes The Harvest (2018, with Jeff Mills) and Sounding Lines (2018, with Moritz von Oswald).
To the international hipster crowd, Allen is probably best-known for playing drums on “La Ritournelle” (2003) by Sébastien Tellier, an iconic track for the contemporary cosmopolitan class.
The drumming on that track sounds like a “Funky Drummer” sample but it is in reality the live drumming of Tony Allen.
I’d say, if you are new to all this, start by listening to “Shakara (Oloje)” (1972) by Fela Kuti, then switch to Never Expect Power Always (1984) and end with Sounding Lines (2018).
Another covid-19 victim.
I also had Gone Clear (1980) and Electric Africa (1985) in my collection.
Only today do I listen for the first time to the whole Soul Makossa (1972) album. I already was familiar with “New Bell” (which had been covered on the electro scene) but “Hibiscus” was new to me and totally exquisite.
Now that I listen to “Soul Makossa” today, I hear in the bassline resonances of acid house. Do you hear it too?