Providing the rhythms for African music icon Fela Anikulapo-Kuti has had a double-edged effect on Nigerian drummer Tony Allen’s reputation. His work is ubiquitous, but his name recognition is negligible. Allen played with Fela’s Afrika 70 orchestra for fifteen years, but Fela is now celebrated as the sole inventor of Afrobeat. Afrobeat is a fusion of traditional West African percussion with late ’60s/early ’70s soul and funk. Allen’s rhythmic legacy is preserved on more than three dozen Fela records, including landmark classics Shakara, Gentleman, Confusion, Zombie, and Roforofo Fight.
Allen’s most recent releases are the Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble (Shanachie) and Psycho On Da Bus (Comet). As a session player, he is featured on Jamaican guitarist Ernest Ranglin’s Modern Answers To Old Problems (TelArc) and Soul Ascendants’ Variations (NuPhonic).
Whatever the new direction, Allen’s understandable goal is “to make sure this Afrobeat spreads–like what reggae has done, like what funk has done, what jazz has done. Now is the time for this music.”