R.I.P. Afrobeat Hero Tony Allen

The drum legend played with Fela Kuti, Damon Albarn, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Sébastien Tellier and more

BY Brock ThiessenPublished Apr 30, 2020

Afrobeat legend Tony Allen has died. According to a reports, the famed Fela Kuti drummer and songwriter passed away on Thursday (April 30) in Paris. While his cause of death is so far unclear, Allen was 79.

The news of Allen's death first broke via Sahara Reporters and was then quickly confirmed by Rolling Stone.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, in 1940, Allen would go on to become one of Afrobeat's most influential figures. As part of Kuti's legendary Africa 70, Allen laid the beatwork that would go on to define the genre, going on to influence countless players in his wake, in both Afrobeat and beyond.

Allen played on Kuti classics from 1973's Gentleman to 1975's Expensive Shit to 1976's Zombie, with the drummer's intense polyrhythmic style being both fierce and undeniably ear-catching.

"Without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat," Kuti famously once said — and the late musician wasn't wrong.

Proving Allen had a reach far beyond the realms of Afrobeat, Brian Eno also once called him "perhaps the greatest drummer who ever lived."

In addition to working with Kuti, Allen led a success solo career, releasing esteemed records such as Jealousy with Africa 70 in 1975, Progress in 1977 and No Accommodation for Lagos in 1979.

Allen continued to be a prolific player up until his death. He famously joined Damon Albarn's the Good, the Bad & the Queen project, with Allen also releasing his stellar Lagos No Shaking via the Blur leader's Honest Jon's Records in 2005.

Allen also went on to collaborate with the likes of Jimi Tenor, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Sébastien Tellier, with Allen leading the French songwriter's jaw-dropping Politics hit "La Ritournelle."

In more recent years, Allen also played again with Damon Albarn and Flea in the Rocket Juice and the Moon project, as well as joined the Moritz Von Oswald Trio, Malian singer Oumou Sangaré and techno hero Jeff Mills.

Allen's most recent album was this year's Rejoice with Hugh Masekela, while his last proper solo effort was 2017's The Source.

You can hear just a few of Tony Allen's many career highlights below.

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