Sunday 3 May 2020

Tony Allen (1940-2020)

Tony Allen.
One month after Africa lost one of its legends, Manu Dibango to covid-19, another musical giant, Tony Allen died in Paris, on April 30, 2020. Allen's death was not related to coronavirus, sources clarified.

Born as Tony Oladipo Allen, in Lagos, on August 12 1940, the Nigerian drummer and composer  worked with Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti (1938 -1997) as a key member of the group that started the genre.

BBC said his manager, Eric Trosset told NPR radio that Allen had died of a heart attack. Also, AFP reported that his death was not linked to coronavirus.

From 1968-79, Allen was the lead drummer and musical director of Fela's famous band Africa '70. Allen's contribution to the founding of Afrobeat was well aknowledged by Fela. "Without Tony Allen, there would be no afrobeat," Fela was quoted to have admitted.

At 18, Allen was a radio station traininee technician in Nigeria, but got inspired by percussion in juju music, a Yoruba modern style of combined native and western instrumentations. Sources have it on record that Allen was also inspired by modern American jazz.

Allen was the eldest of six children from his father James Alabi Allen, a Nigerian auto mechanic, and mother Prudencia Anna (Mettle) Allen, who was of GhanaIan parentage.

Like most musicians of his generation, he was also a rebel. A source quoted him: "My parents were not keen. Back then, in Lagos, musicians were more or less thought of as beggars, or worse. But I just put it in front of them. I was an electrical technician, but I wanted to make a change. My mother was never happy about it, but my father, who was an amateur musician, eventually agreed."

The Afrobeat he contributed in founding grew to become combination of juju music and highlife styles with American jazz. However, the heavy influence of juju percussion, particularly the Yoruba drums and sometimes lyrical contents of the same language made Afrobeat popular in Nigeria.

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