Legendary Afrobeat Drummer Tony Allen Dead At 79
Tony Allen, the legendary Afrobeat drummer, has died at 79.
His manager Eric Trosset confirmed the news to France 24 saying that: “We don’t know the exact cause of death. He was in great shape, it was quite sudden. I spoke to him at 1:00 pm (1100 GMT), then two hours later he was sick and taken to Pompidou hospital where he died.” He did clarify that his death did not seem to be linked to coronavirus.
Allen was known for his prolific collaborations with Fela Kuti and Africa 70. Allen and Kuti first met each other in 1964, and Allen would go on to play on over 30 albums with Kuti and his band, including 1973’s Gentlemen, 1975’s Expensive Shit, and 1976’s Zombie.
He is credited as one of the founders of Afrobeat and the progenitor of Afrofunk. Brian Eno once called him “one of the great musicians of the 20th century — and the 21st.” Flea said that he was “one of the greatest drummers to ever walk this earth.”
Allen started putting out solo music toward the end of the 1970s. He would continue to release music throughout the rest of his life and collaborate with many musicians, including Damon Albarn, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Air. He struck up a particularly fruitful creative partnership with Albarn — he was part of the supergroup The Good, The Bad & The Queen and played on their 2007 and 2018 albums, and he also collaborated on a project with Albarn and Flea called Rocket Juice And The Moon.
In 2017, Allen put out a new solo album called The Source, which landed on our list of the best jazz albums of that year. A new album with the late trumpeter Hugh Masekela, Rejoice, was released just last month.