Legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen dies aged 79

Pioneering Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen has died at the age of 79 in Paris.

His manager confirmed the news overnight, adding the Nigerian-born musician’s death was not linked to Covid-19.

Speaking on the death of the star, Eric Trosset told AFP: ‘We don’t know the exact cause of death.’

Allen, who is credited as a co-founder of the Afrobeat genre, was the drummer and musical director of musician Fela Kuti’s famous band Africa ’70 in the 1960-70s.

Crediting the power of Allen, Kuti, who died in 1997, once said that ‘without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat’.

Tributes have flooded in across the music industry, with Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, a collaborator of Allen’s, sharing an image of the drummer to Instagram with a lengthy statement.

‘The epic Tony Allen, one of the greatest drummers to ever walk this earth has left us,’ Flea wrote. ‘What a wildman, with a massive, kind and free heart and the deepest one-of-a-kind groove.’

He continued: ‘Fela Kuti did not invent afrobeat, Fela and Tony birthed it together. Without Tony Allen there is NO afrobeat.


‘I was lucky enough to spend many an hour with him, holed up in a London studio, jamming the days away. It was f**king heavenly.

‘He was and still is, my hero. I wanted to honor his greatness so much when we played together, and I was nervous when we started, but he made me laugh like a two year old, and we fell right into pocket.

‘I lit up like a Christmas tree every time I knew we were about to lay down some rhythm. With Tony’s longtime musical collaborator, friend and champion, Damon Albarn, we jammed til the cows came home.

‘We partied in Nigeria, we partied around Europe, and it was always about the music. Just grooving high, grooving deep. Tony Allen I love you, I’m so grateful to have had the chance to rock with you. God bless your beautiful soul. (sic)’

Africa Express, a UK-based group that promotes African music, tweeted: ‘RIP Tony. Simply the best. We’ll miss you.’

Drumming pioneer Allen’s career and life story were documented in the 2013 autobiography, Tony Allen: Master Drummer of Afrobeat.

He was a frequent and longtime collaborator with Blur star Damon Albarn, with the pair joined by the Clash’s Paul Simonon and Simon Tong of the Verve in super group The Good, The Bad And The Queen.

Rapper Biz Markie compared Allen’s influence on popular music to that of Bo Diddley, a pivotal figure in the transition from the blues to rock and roll.

He said: ‘Tony Allen’s influence on popular music was so unsung and undercelebrated. Hard to find a more influential band than Talking Heads, whose best songs mostly involved riffs on Fela’s rhythm — which was largely driven by the imagination, power & athleticism of those drums & grooves.’

Sean Lennon, the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, said: ‘Another day another legend passes on. It’s really incredible the rate at which we’re losing them. Tony Allen R.I.P.’

Allen was a self-taught drummer and did not pick up the sticks until he was 18. Despite coming to the drums relatively late, electronic music pioneer Brian Eno reportedly described him as perhaps the greatest drummer ever.

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