Tony Allen

Bio

Tony Allen (born Anthony Oladipo Allen in Lagos in 1940) was a Nigerian drummer, composer, and songwriter who lived and worked in Paris, France.

Allen taught himself to play the drums whilst still in school, by listening to the music of Bebop greats Art Blakey and Max Roach.

After leaving school, he began a career as a professional Drummer, starting with Victor Olaiya's Cool Cats and moving on to other Highlife Bands. He was performing at the Western Hotel, Lagos, when he was head-hunted by Fela's then Manager Benson Idonije, who promptly recruited him into Fela's Koola Lobitoes.

The partnership between Fela and Allen, gave rise to the popular phenomenon Afrobeat. There was an incredible synergy between the two men that manifested in Fela being able to experiment with his more radical musical ideas, confident in the knowledge that Allen would deliver the requisite Rhythmic groove to base the compositions on.

Allen recorded over 30 albums with Fela, between 1964 and 1980, which some describe as the Golden era of Fela's Musical journey. He branched out on his own, jaded with the constant crises that followed the band and a desire to exercise his own creativity. He moved to Paris and recorded his second album "Never Expect Power Always (NEPA)", play on Nigeria's shambolic Electricity Supply Company.

He released several albums on his own, before starting a collaboration with Blur front-man Damon Albarn, a long-time fan of Allen's (even slotting an Allen tribute into a Blur song). Albarn was to co-produce Allen's successful "Home-cooking" album in 2001. The pair also travelled to Nigeria in 2003, to record a Highlife album "The Damon Albarn Highlife Project" (working with local musicians) which was never released.

Allen's next album "Lagos no shaking" saw him return to Nigeria to record wholly with local musicians, studio's and engineers. Albarn and Allen, as well Simon Tong and Paul Simonon (of The Verve and Clash) collaborated in a super group/eponymously named album- "The good the bad and the Queen" in 2007. Allen returned to Nigeria to record his latest album "Secret Agent" in 2009, with the same local musicians as in "Lagos, no shaking".

He continues to tour internationally and collaborate with a wide range of artistes. His career is described best by Brian Eno as "perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived."

NGLagos, Nigeria
In operation since: 
1964

Contact

Tony Allen
Profile added by Ed Keazor on 21 Aug 2014
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