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 AWARDS FOR WORLD MUSIC 2003: ARTIST PROFILE
Africa Tony Allen

Tony Allen (Nigeria)

Song : Every Season featuring Damon Albarn
Album : HomeCooking (Comet, France)

Visit : www.africanmusicianprofiles.com
Elsewhere in BBCi : Album review


One of the world's great original rhythmatists, Nigerian drummer Tony Allen is revered for his work with Fela Kuti, co-creating the style they call Afro-Beat while in the infamous orchestra Africa 70. Their heady brew of jazz, highlife and various other mostly local ingredients was at its peak between 1969 and 1978, when Allen left to pursue a sometimes erratic solo career.

Long before, Tony's father had encouraged him into music by example, regularly performing palm wine music with friends in the family home. Tony played the snare drum in a school marching band, after which a restless quest for perfection took him from band to band. Eventually he met Fela, and the two forged an artistic partnership in his early band Koola Lobitos during the last half of the 1960s.

Tony recorded his first three solo albums with Africa 70 while still working with Fela, before breaking away to make the classic No Discrimination with his own group The Afro Messengers in 1978. There followed a career lull in the 1980s, during which he relocated to Paris. He spent much of the next decade in obscurity, but after the death of Fela in 1997, Afro-Beat began to come back into fashion world-wide with a younger generation of clubbers.

Tony finally broke a ten year silence at the close of the millennium, recording a sensational comeback album with hip hop producer Doctor L. Black Voices updated Afro-Beat with spectacular verve. His career renaissance has continued ever since at the epicentre of the Afro-Beat revival. Most of his back catalogue has been re-released, and various remix projects have further broadened his audience well beyond the boundaries of world music.

On his most recent album Home Cooking, Tony is joined by several British vocalists including long term admirer Damon Albarn. And he takes pride of place among a stellar caste of contributors to the excellent Fela tribute Red Hot + Riot.

Tony's polyrhythmic but uniquely economical style of drumming has allowed him to develop a distinctively cool vocal technique, and he often sings while playing. A veteran of all-night sessions behind the kit, he doesn¹t believe in wasting energy and hardly moves his body when he plays. It's a philosophy he neatly explains thus: 'This body movement on drums is bad, and it cannot let you think. When drummers use the body with too much energy and everything, they think less. But you have room to create when you are relaxed.'

Jon Lusk 2002


More Nigerian music on Radio 3:
Folk music, big band style, in Liverpool


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Omar Faruk Tekbilek

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Papa Noel and Papi Oviedo

Salif Keita

Samira Said

Sergey Starostin

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Te Vaka

Tony Allen

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Yair Dalal

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Yusa


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