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Tony Allen death: Afrobeat legend dies aged 79

Allen was best known for performing with Fela Kuti in the Sixties and Seventies

Isobel Lewis
Friday 01 May 2020 09:10 BST
Tony Allen performs Wolf Eats Wolf

Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen has died at the age of 79.

The Nigerian-born drummer, who is credited with creating the musical genre along with bandmate Fela Kuti, died suddenly in Paris on Thursday.

“He was in great shape, it was quite sudden,” manager Eric Trosset told AFP. “I spoke to him at 1pm then two hours later he was sick and taken to Pompidou hospital, where he died.”

While Allen’s exact cause of death is unknown, Trosset said that it had not been linked to coronavirus.

Described by Brian Eno and Damon Albarn as the greatest drummer on the planet, Allen was best known for performing in and musically directing Kuti’s band Africa '70 in the Sixties and Seventies.

The duo recorded more than 30 albums together, before going their separate ways in the late Seventies. Kuti, who died in 1997, had previously said: “Without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat.”

In the Noughties, Allen worked with musicians such as Albarn, Flea (from Red Hot Chilli Peppers) and Jeff Mills, releasing his last album Rejoice, a collaboration with the late Hugh Masekela, in March 2020.

Flea led tributes to the drummer, writing on Instagram: “The epic Tony Allen, one of the greatest drummers to ever walk this Earth has left us. What a wildman, with a massive, kind and free heart and the deepest one-of-a-kind groove.

“I was lucky enough to spend many an hour with him, holed up in a London studio, jamming the days away. It was f***ing heavenly. He was and still is, my hero. I wanted to honor his greatness so much when we played together, and I was nervous when we started, but he made me laugh like a two year old, and we fell right into pocket. I lit up like a Christmas tree every time I knew we were about to lay down some rhythm… God bless your beautiful soul.”

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