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The Guardian MAY 1, 2020 - by Staff Writers

TONY ALLEN, LEGENDARY DRUMMER AND AFROBEAT CO-FOUNDER, DIES AGED 79

Gilles Peterson and Biz Markie pay tribute to the Fela Kuti collaborator, described by Brian Eno as "perhaps the greatest drummer who ever lived".

The Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, who is credited with creating Afrobeat along with his old bandmate Fela Kuti, died suddenly at the age of seventy-nine in Paris on Thursday, his manager said.

"We don't know the exact cause of death," Eric Trosset said, adding it was not linked to the coronavirus.

"He was in great shape, it was quite sudden. I spoke to him at 1pm then two hours later he was sick and taken to Pompidou hospital, where he died."

Allen was the drummer and musical director of Fela Kuti's band Africa 70 in the 1960s and '70s.

During that time the pair created Afrobeat, combining west African musical styles such as highlife and fuji music with US jazz and funk. Afrobeat went on to become one of the totemic genres of twentieth century African music.

Over Allen's thrilling beat, Kuti laid out his revolutionary and pan-African message, which led him to become one of the abiding icons of the struggle for freedom across the continent.

Allen and Kuti recorded some forty albums together as Africa 70, before parting ways after a mythic twenty-six-year collaboration. Such was the hole that Allen left in his band, Kuti needed four drummers to replace him.

Artists including Major Lazer, Gilles Peterson and Flea have paid tribute to Allen on Twitter, with the rapper Biz Markie describing him as "an all-time titan spanning continents, eras, and sounds.

"He didn't just invent new pockets, he was a sorcerer who fundamentally and effortlessly redefined rhythm."

Allen taught himself to play drums from the age of eighteen, drawing inspiration from the US jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, as well as contemporary African music.

He remained hugely influential and beloved by generations of musicians.

The British musician and producer Brian Eno has called Allen "perhaps the greatest drummer who ever lived".

Allen was the drummer in the supergroup the Good, The Bad & The Queen, also featuring the Blur singer Damon Albarn and the Clash bassist Paul Simonon, which released its second album in 2018.

He lived in the Paris suburb Courbevoie.


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