Tony Allen is one of the most influential and distinguished musicians of Africa. The status as best drummer of the continent belongs to him since many years. Allen uniquely combines Highlife, Soul/Funk, Jazz and traditional Nigerian drum-art. Along with Fela Kuti, he is regarded to be the originator of the Afrobeats, through which they got famous all over the world in the 1960s and 1970s. In the framework of his tour in May 2016, Allen will also make four stops in Germany! Reason enough, to look back at his great career.
Everything started with 18
Tony Oladipo Allen is 75 years old by now and has a moving career behind him. Working at a Nigerian radio station, the 18-year old Allen started to teach himself to play the drums. The music-taste of his father, American Jazz and the Highlife-Scene of Nigeria and Ghana inspired him. By studying different famous drummers from the US and Africa, he tried to generate his own style. As a result of that, he worked with bands like the „Cool Cats“, „Agu Norris and the Heatwaves“, „Nigerian Messengers“ and the „Melody Makers“. In 1964 Tony Allen joined the Highlife-Jazz-Band “Koola Lobitos” from Fela Kuti. He was absolutely mesmerized by the skills of the 24-year old Allen, who was the best at merging Jazz and Highlight with one another. In 1969 the band renamed itself “Africa ’70” and went on a big US-tour. During that tour, a new style of African music was born. A mixture of Jazz, Highlife and the rhythms of Yoruba, a West-African tribe. The combination of these styles was Allens Opus: the so-called “Afrobeat”.
In the following years, the collaboration was very successful and more then 30 albums were made over the years. But after some quarrels among the band in 1970, Allen and some other musician left “Africa ’70”. In 1984 he emigrated to Europe and worked as a studio-drummer in Paris together wither other African artists. In 1998 he produced solo albums again. Another musical style, which was developed by him , was the so-called “Afrofunk”, that extended the Afrobeat with Electronica, Dub and Hip-Hop.
In 2006 he returned to his musical roots and recorded some Afrobeat albums. This comeback was celebrated with a Live-Album and together with the band “Lagos No Shaking”. His 2014 published “Film of Life” is his last studio album so far.