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Tony Allen (musician)

Tony Allen (musician)

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Tony Oladipo Allen is a
Nigeria
Nigeria
Nigeria , officially the Federal Republic of Nigeria, is a federal constitutional republic comprising 36 states and its Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. The country is located in West Africa and shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger in...

n drummer
Drummer
A drummer is a musician who is capable of playing drums, which includes but is not limited to a drum kit and accessory based hardware which includes an assortment of pedals and standing support mechanisms, marching percussion and/or any musical instrument that is struck within the context of a...

, composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

, and songwriter
Songwriter
A songwriter is an individual who writes both the lyrics and music to a song. Someone who solely writes lyrics may be called a lyricist, and someone who only writes music may be called a composer...

 who currently lives and works in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

. He is currently writing his autobiography "Tony Allen: Master Drummer of Afrobeat" with author/musician Michael E. Veal, who has previously written a comprehensive biography of Fela Kuti.

As drummer and musical director of Fela Anikulapo Kuti
Fela Kuti
Fela Anikulapo Kuti , or simply Fela , was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, pioneer of Afrobeat music, human rights activist, and political maverick.-Biography:...

’s band Africa 70 from 1968 to 1979, Tony Allen was one of the primary co-founders of the genre of Afrobeat
Afrobeat
Afrobeat is a combination of traditional Yoruba music, jazz, highlife, funk and chanted vocals, fused with percussion and vocal styles, popularised in Africa in the 1970s. Its main creator was the Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, who gave it its name, who used it to...

 music. Fela once stated that, "without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat." He has also been described by Brian Eno
Brian Eno
Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno , commonly known as Brian Eno or simply as Eno , is an English musician, composer, record producer, singer and visual artist, known as one of the principal innovators of ambient music.Eno studied at Colchester Institute art school in Essex,...

 as "perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived."

Early career


A self-taught musician, Allen began to play drum-kit at the age of eighteen, while working as an engineer for a Nigerian radio station. Allen was influenced by music his father listened to (Juju
Jùjú music
Jùjú is a style of Nigerian popular music, derived from traditional Yoruba percussion. The name comes from a Yoruba word "juju" or "jiju" meaning "throwing" or "something being thrown." Juju music did not derive its name from juju, which "is a form of magic and the use of magic objects or...

, traditional Yoruba
Yoruba music
The music of the Yoruba people of Nigeria is best known for an extremely advanced drumming tradition, especially using the dundun hourglass tension drums. Yoruba folk music became perhaps the most prominent kind of West African music in Afro-Latin and Caribbean musical styles...

 ceremonial music), but also American jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

, & the growing highlife
Highlife
Highlife is a musical genre that originated in Ghana in the 1900s and spread to Sierra Leone, Nigeria and other West African countries by 1920...

 scene in Nigeria and Ghana. Allen worked hard to develop a unique voice on the drums- feverishly studying LP's & magazine articles by Max Roach
Max Roach
Maxwell Lemuel "Max" Roach was an American jazz percussionist, drummer, and composer.A pioneer of bebop, Roach went on to work in many other styles of music, and is generally considered alongside the most important drummers in history...

 & Art Blakey
Art Blakey
Arthur "Art" Blakey , known later as Abdullah Ibn Buhaina, was an American Grammy Award-winning jazz drummer and bandleader. He was a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community....

, but also revolutionary Ghanaian drummer Guy Warren
Guy Warren
Guy Warren of Ghana or Kofi Ghanaba was a Ghanaian musician, best known as the inventor of Afro-jazz and as a member of The Tempos.- Biography :...

 (now Kofi Ghanaba-who developed a highly sought sound that mixed tribal Ghanaian drumming with bop- working with Dizzy Gillespie
Dizzy Gillespie
John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie was an American jazz trumpet player, bandleader, singer, and composer dubbed "the sound of surprise".Together with Charlie Parker, he was a major figure in the development of bebop and modern jazz...

, Charlie Parker
Charlie Parker
Charles Parker, Jr. , famously called Bird or Yardbird, was an American jazz saxophonist and composer....

, Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Sphere Monk was an American jazz pianist and composer considered "one of the giants of American music". Monk had a unique improvisational style and made numerous contributions to the standard jazz repertoire, including "Epistrophy", "'Round Midnight", "Blue Monk", "Straight, No Chaser"...

, and Max Roach
Max Roach
Maxwell Lemuel "Max" Roach was an American jazz percussionist, drummer, and composer.A pioneer of bebop, Roach went on to work in many other styles of music, and is generally considered alongside the most important drummers in history...

).

Tony was hired by 'Sir' Victor Olaiya
Victor Olaiya
Victor Abimbola Olaiya, or 'Dr Victor Olaiya', is a Nigerian trumpeter who plays in the Highlife style. He was possibly the biggest star in Nigeria in the 1950s and early 1960s, but received little recognition outside of Nigeria...

 to play claves
Claves
Claves are a percussion instrument , consisting of a pair of short Claves (Anglicized pronunciation: clah-vays, IPA:[ˈklαves]) are a percussion instrument (idiophone), consisting of a pair of short Claves (Anglicized pronunciation: clah-vays, IPA:[ˈklαves]) are a percussion instrument (idiophone),...

 (sticks) with his highlife band, "the Cool Cats". Tony was able to fill the drum-set chair when the former Cool Cats drummer left the band. Allen later played with Agu Norris and the Heatwaves, the Nigerian Messengers and the Melody Makers.

Fela and Africa '70


In 1964, Fela Ransome Kuti invited Allen to audition for a jazz-highlife band he was forming. Kuti and Allen had played together as sidemen in the Lagos circuit. Fela complimented Allen’s unique sound: "How come you are the only guy in Nigeria who plays like this - jazz and highlife?" Thus Allen became an original member of Kuti’s "Koola Lobitos" highlife-jazz band.

In 1969, following a turbulent and educational trip to the U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, Fela and the newly renamed Africa ’70 band developed a new militant African sound- mixing the heavy groove and universal appeal of soul with jazz, highlife, and the polyrhythm
Polyrhythm
Polyrhythm is the simultaneous sounding of two or more independent rhythms.Polyrhythm in general is a nonspecific term for the simultaneous occurrence of two or more conflicting rhythms, of which cross-rhythm is a specific and definable subset.—Novotney Polyrhythms can be distinguished from...

ic template of Yoruba conventions. Allen developed a novel style to compliment Fela’s new African groove that blended these disparate genres.

Allen recounts how Fela and he wrote in 1970, “Fela used to write out the parts for all the musicians in the band (Africa '70). I was the only one who originated the music I played. Fela would ask what type of rhythm I wanted to play… You can tell a good drummer because we… have four limbs… and they are… playing different things… the patterns don’t just come from Yoruba… [but] other parts of Nigeria and Africa.” (Graeme Ewens, “Africa O-Ye!”, 1991)

Allen recorded over 30 albums with Fela and Africa ’70, arguably Fela’s best works. But by the late 1970’s, dissension was growing in the ranks of the Africa ’70. Arguments over royalties/pay, and recognition grew in intensity. As inventor of the rhythms that underpinned Afrobeat and musical director, Allen felt especially slighted. Fela stood his ground, stating, that he would get the royalties for his songs. Fela did support Allen’s three solo recordings: Jealousy (’75), Progress (‘77), No Accommodation For Lagos (’79), but by 1979, Allen chose to leave Africa ’70, taking many members with him. ‘What makes me decide it’s time to go? It’s … everything...and (his) carelessness....like he doesn’t care, like he doesn’t know ...he doesn’t feel he’s done anything (wrong). And with all the parasites around too.... there were 71 people on tour by now and only 30 working in the band....you got to ask why. Those guys were sapping Fela of his Force, of his Music.’ So Tony moved on, once again in search of his own sound.’

Afrobeat to Afrofunk


Allen formed his own group, recording No Discrimination in 1980, and performing in Lagos until emigrating to London in 1984. Later moving to Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, Allen recorded with King Sunny Ade
King Sunny Adé
King Sunny Adé is a popular performer of Yoruba Nigerian Jùjú music and a pioneer of modern world music. He has been classed as one of the most influential musicians of all time.-Background:...

, Ray Lema
Ray Lema
Raymond Lema A'nsi Nzinga, known as Ray Lema, is a Congolese musician born March 30, 1946 in Lufu-Toto, Bas-Congo Province.Lema is a pianist, guitarist, and songwriter. He worked for the National Ballet of Zaire, as it was then called, and in 1979 was invited to the United States by the...

 & Manu Dibango
Manu Dibango
-External links:*...

. Allen recorded N.E.P.A. in 1985.

Post-Fela, Allen developed a hybrid sound, deconstructing & fusing Afrobeat with electronica
Electronica
Electronica includes a wide range of contemporary electronic music designed for a wide range of uses, including foreground listening, some forms of dancing, and background music for other activities; however, unlike electronic dance music, it is not specifically made for dancing...

, dub
Dub music
Dub is a genre of music which grew out of reggae music in the 1960s, and is commonly considered a subgenre, though it has developed to extend beyond the scope of reggae...

, R&B, and rap
Hip hop music
Hip hop music, also called hip-hop, rap music or hip-hop music, is a musical genre consisting of a stylized rhythmic music that commonly accompanies rapping, a rhythmic and rhyming speech that is chanted...

. Allen refers to this synthesis as afrofunk.

Tony Allen returns with a much anticipated new project for his thirteenth release. Recorded live in Lagos, with a full-sized Afrobeat band, Lagos No Shaking (Lagos is OK), signifies Allen's return to roots Afrobeat after forays into avant-garde electronica hybrids. Lagos No Shaking was released on June 13, 2006.

Current work


In 2002, Allen appeared on the Red Hot Organization
Red Hot Organization
Red Hot Organization is a not-for-profit, 501 3, international organization dedicated to fighting AIDS through pop culture.Since its inception in 1989, over 400 artists, producers and directors have contributed to over 15 compilation albums, related television programs and media events to raise...

's compilation album Red Hot and Riot in tribute to Fela Kuti
Fela Kuti
Fela Anikulapo Kuti , or simply Fela , was a Nigerian multi-instrumentalist musician and composer, pioneer of Afrobeat music, human rights activist, and political maverick.-Biography:...

. Allen appeared alongside Res, Ray Lema
Ray Lema
Raymond Lema A'nsi Nzinga, known as Ray Lema, is a Congolese musician born March 30, 1946 in Lufu-Toto, Bas-Congo Province.Lema is a pianist, guitarist, and songwriter. He worked for the National Ballet of Zaire, as it was then called, and in 1979 was invited to the United States by the...

, Baaba Maal
Baaba Maal
Baaba Maal is a Senegalese singer and guitarist born in Podor, on the Senegal River. In addition to acoustic guitar, he also plays percussion. He has released several albums, both for independent and major labels. In July 2003, he was made a UNDP Youth Emissary.-Biography:Born 12 November 1953...

, Positive Black Soul
Positive Black Soul
Positive Black Soul is a hip hop group based in Dakar, Senegal, one of the first such collectives in the country. Founded in 1989, the group is composed of Didier Sourou Awadi and Amadou Barry , both of whom had previously been in other hip hop groups...

 and Archie Shepp
Archie Shepp
Archie Shepp is a prominent African-American jazz saxophonist. Shepp is best known for his passionately Afrocentric music of the late 1960s, which focused on highlighting the injustices faced by the African-Americans, as well as for his work with the New York Contemporary Five, Horace Parlan, and...

 on a track titled "No Agreement."

Tony Allen played drums throughout the 2003 album 'Love Trap' by Susheela Raman and has also performed with her live.

In 2004 he recorded with Parisian artist Sébastien Tellier
Sébastien Tellier
Sébastien Tellier is a French singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He is currently signed to Record Makers, a French independent record label. He sings in English, French and Italian.-Biography:...

 on the Frenchman's album "Politics" including the popular song "La Ritournelle
La Ritournelle
"La Ritournelle" is a song by Sébastien Tellier from his 2004 album Politics. It was released as a single on September 26th 2005, and along with the original, this included remixes by Mr. Dan, Jim Noir and Jake Bullit....

".

In 2006, Tony Allen joined with Damon Albarn
Damon Albarn
Damon Albarn is an English singer-songwriter and record producer who has been involved in many high profile projects, coming to prominence as the frontman and primary songwriter of Britpop band Blur...

, Paul Simonon
Paul Simonon
Paul Gustave Simonon is an English musician and artist best known as the bass guitarist for punk rock band The Clash. Recent work includes his involvement in the album The Good, the Bad & the Queen with Damon Albarn, Simon Tong and Tony Allen, released in January 2007...

, and Simon Tong
Simon Tong
Simon Tong is a guitarist and keyboardist who was a member of The Verve between 1996 and 1999 and is currently a member of Erland and the Carnival and Transmission. He has also played on tour with Blur, Gorillaz and the unnamed supergroup responsible for The Good, the Bad & the Queen...

 as drummer for The Good, the Bad and the Queen
The Good, the Bad and the Queen
The Good, the Bad & the Queen is the album by an ostensibly unnamed British alternative rock supergroup also commonly referred to as The Good, The Bad & The Queen, and made up of Damon Albarn, Paul Simonon, Simon Tong and Tony Allen. The album was released in January 2007...

.

Tony plays drums on two tracks on the 2007 album "5:55" by Charlotte Gainsbourg
Charlotte Gainsbourg
Charlotte Lucy Gainsbourg is an Anglo-French actress and singer. After releasing an album with her father at the age of fifteen, more than twenty years passed before she released two albums as an adult to commercial and critical success...

: "5:55" and "Night-Time Intermission", backed by French duo Air and Jarvis Cocker
Jarvis Cocker
Jarvis Branson Cocker is an English musician and frontman for the band Pulp. Through his work with the band, Cocker became a figurehead of the Britpop movement of the mid-1990s. Following Pulp's hiatus Cocker has led a successful solo career...

 of Pulp
Pulp (band)
Pulp are an English alternative rock band formed in Sheffield in 1978. Their lineup consists of Jarvis Cocker , Russell Senior , Candida Doyle , Mark Webber , Steve Mackey and Nick Banks ....

.

He also made an appearance playing the drums in the Video for "Once Upon a Time
Once Upon a Time (Air song)
"Once Upon a Time" is a song by the French duo Air and is the second track on their 2007 studio album Pocket Symphony. The radio edit version of the song was released as the first single from that album in January 2007 via digital download stores...

" by French duo Air in late 2007.

He has been a featured artist on Zap Mama
Zap Mama
Zap Mama is a Belgian musical group founded and led by Marie Daulne. Daulne says her mission is to be a bridge between the European and the African and bring the two cultures together with her music...

's albums Supermoon (2007) and ReCreation (2009), adding his voice to the tracks "1000 Ways" and "African Diamond."

His new album entitled "Secret Agent" was released in June 2009 by World Circuit
World Circuit (record label)
World Circuit is a world-music record label that specializes in Cuban and West African recording artists, among other international music stars. World Circuit celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2006 by releasing World Circuit Presents..., a 2-disc retrospective compilation album...

.

Tony Allen has influenced a range of artists across a number of genres. In the single Music Is My Radar
Music Is My Radar
"Music Is My Radar" is a song by British band Blur. It was released as a single in support of the band's Best of album, Blur: The Best Of, on which it also appears, reaching Number 10 in the UK. Along with 1992's "Popscene", it is one of two Blur singles never to have been included on a studio album...

 (2000) Blur
Blur (band)
Blur is an English alternative rock band. Formed in London in 1989 as Seymour, the group consists of singer Damon Albarn, guitarist Graham Coxon, bassist Alex James and drummer Dave Rowntree. Blur's debut album Leisure incorporated the sounds of Madchester and shoegazing...

 pay homage to Tony Allen, and the song ends with Damon Albarn
Damon Albarn
Damon Albarn is an English singer-songwriter and record producer who has been involved in many high profile projects, coming to prominence as the frontman and primary songwriter of Britpop band Blur...

 repeating the phrase “Tony Allen got me dancing.”

He is now working with Damon Albarn
Damon Albarn
Damon Albarn is an English singer-songwriter and record producer who has been involved in many high profile projects, coming to prominence as the frontman and primary songwriter of Britpop band Blur...

 and Flea
Flea (musician)
Michael Peter Balzary , better known by his stage name Flea, is an Australian-American musician and occasional actor. He is best known as the bassist, co-founding member, and one of the composers of the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers...

 on a new project called Rocketjuice and The Moon
Rocketjuice and The Moon
Rocketjuice and The Moon is a supergroup formed in 2008. The group consists Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tony Allen , longtime drummer and musical producer for Fela Kuti....

 with a album due for release in 2012.

Discography

Year Title Artist Label
1969 Koola Lobitos (64-68) / The 69' Los Angeles Sessions Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1970 Fela's London Scene Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1971 Live ! Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1971 Open & Close Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1972 Roforofo Fight Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1972 Shakara Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1973 Afrodisiac Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1973 Gentlemen Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1974 Confusion Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1974 He Miss Road Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1975 Jealousy Tony Allen Soundworkshop
1975 Alagbon Close Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1975 Everything Scatter Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1975 Excuse O Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1975 Expensive Shit Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1975 Monkey Banana Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1975 Noise For Vendor Mouth Fela Ransome Kuti Barclay
1976 Ikoyi Blindness Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1976 Kalakuta Show Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1976 Na Poi Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1976 Unnecessary Begging Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1976 Upside Down Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1976 Yellow Fever Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 Progress Tony Allen Phonogram
1977 Fear Not For Man Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 J.J.D - Live At Kalakuta Republik Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 No Agreement Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 Opposite People Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 Sorrow Tears And Blood Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 Stalemate Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1977 Zombie Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1979 No Accommodation for Lagos Tony Allen Phonogram
1979 Unknown Soldier Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1979 V.I.P. Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1979 No Discrimination Tony Allen and the Afro Messengers Shanu Olu Records
1980 Music Of Many Colours Fela Anikulapo Kuti / Roy Ayers Barclay
1985 Never Expect Power Always (aka N.E.P.A.) Tony Allen with Afrobeat 2000 Moving Target
1986 I Go Shout Plenty Fela Anikulapo Kuti Afrodisia
1998 Ariya Tony Allen Comet
1999 Black Voices Tony Allen Comet
1999 Ariya (remixes) Tony Allen Comet
1999 The Two Sides Of Fela - Jazz & Dance Fela Anikulapo Kuti Barclay
1999 Racubah! - A Collection of Modern Afro Rhythms Various Artists Comet
2000 Black Voices Alternate take Featuring Mike 'clip' Payne Tony Allen Comet
2000 Black Voices Remixed Tony Allen Comet
2000 Mountains Will Never Surrender Doctor L Jive
2000 The Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble Part 1 Various Artists Comet
2000 The Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble Part 2 Various Artists Comet
2000 The Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble Part 3 Various Artists Comet
2000 Modern Answers To Old Problems Ernest Ranglin
2000 Afrobeat...No Go Die ! Various Artists Shanachie
2001 The Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble Various Artists Comet
2001 The Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble Part 4 Various Artists Comet
2001 The Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble Part 5 Various Artists Comet
2001 The Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble Part 6 Various Artists Comet
2002 Homecooking Tony Allen Wrasse Records
Wrasse Records
Wrasse Records is a British record label. It was started in 1998 by Ian and Jo Ashbridge. Both had been involved in the music industry prior to them starting up their own company. Its offices are based in the UK, but it distributes its CDs all around the world...

2002 Every Season Tony Allen Comet
2002 Eager Hands & Restless Feet Tony Allen Wrasse Records
Wrasse Records
Wrasse Records is a British record label. It was started in 1998 by Ian and Jo Ashbridge. Both had been involved in the music industry prior to them starting up their own company. Its offices are based in the UK, but it distributes its CDs all around the world...

2004 Awa Band Bababatteur Ekosound
2004 Live Tony Allen Comet
2006 Lagos No Shaking Tony Allen Astralwerks
2007 The Good, The Bad & The Queen The Good, The Bad & The Queen EMI
2007 5:55 Charlotte Gainsbourg Because/Vice
2009 Secret Agent Tony Allen World Circuit Records
2009 Inspiration Information 4 Jimi Tenor & Tony Allen Strut
2012 TBA Rocketjuice and The Moon
Rocketjuice and The Moon
Rocketjuice and The Moon is a supergroup formed in 2008. The group consists Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz, Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tony Allen , longtime drummer and musical producer for Fela Kuti....


External links



Two Tony Allen radio shows on Red Bull Music Academy Radio (RBMA Radio)
Downloadable podcast of a lecture Tony Allen delivered to Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) attendees