Sunday, 10 May 2020

Allen not co-founder of Afrobeat, says Yeni Kuti

Yeni Kuti. Pic: Internet source.

It took the death of Tony Allen for a sudden change of narrative in the trajectory of Afrobeat to surface. After the death of Allen, quite a number of media outlets within and outside Africa described him as "co-founder of Afrobeat," with Fela Anikulapo Kuti.

On Sunday afternoon, Yeni Kuti, one of Fela's children disagreed with the co-founder claim given to Allen. Yeni, who was a guest at 'The Discourse with Jimi Disu', on  Classic fm 97.3 said Allen was never a co-founder of Afrobeat with her father. Yeni, 58, argued that Fela being the only member of his band then that studied music was always in the lead in directing affairs of the group's musical contents.


Yeni, specifically stated that Fela was the person scoring the music. She explained that "Fela was the only one in the band that studied music, so he was the person scoring all the music." She said emphatically: "Fela created Afrobeat."

However, Yeni commended the fact that Allen was always at his best with the drums in contributing to the emergence of Afrobeat.

The host, Disu, also expressed worry about the co-founder narrative. He cited how, specifically, renowned music critic and broadcaster, Benson Idonije also disclaimed the co-founder toga. Idonije was Fela's manager of many years.

Perhaps, Fela's recognition of Allen's contribution in the creation of Afrobeat was enough to generate the co-founder description being spread in favour of the late drummer. Fela has been quoted saying: "Without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat."


Allen died in Paris, France, April 30, 2020. From 1968-79, Allen was the lead drummer and musical director of Fela's famous band Africa '70.


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