Pioneering Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen has died in Paris, France, aged 79, his manager Eric Trosset confirmed today (May 1). The cause of Allen’s death is not yet known, but was unrelated to coronavirus, the BBC reports.
Born in Lagos in 1940, the Nigerian artist is best known for his work with multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, serving as drummer and musical director of Kuti’s Africa ’70 band from 1968 until his departure from the group in 1979. Throughout his tenure, Allen performed on essential albums like 1975’s ‘Expensive Shit’ and ‘Zombie’ in 1976.
Described by Brian Eno as “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived”, Allen is also largely considered one of the primary co-founders of the Afrobeat genre. “Without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat,” Kuti famously commented.
Appearing on the recordings of the likes of Charlotte Gainsbourg and Grace Jones, Allen maintained a consistent output of solo material throughout his career, beginning with 1975 album ‘Jealousy’. Becoming increasingly prolific throughout the 2000s and 2010s, his last solo album was 2017’s ‘The Source’.
Additionally, Allen played as part of supergroup The Good, the Bad & the Queen with Damon Albarn, Paul Simonon and Simon Tong. He released two albums with the group – a self-titled record in 2007 and ‘Merrie Land’ in 2018. Allen also worked with Albarn along with Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea as part of the group Rocket Juice & The Moon, releasing an album with the project in 2012.
Allen’s final album, ‘Rejoice’, a collaboration with trumpeter Hugh Masekela, was released in March of this year.