Tony Allen is the Nigerian-born drummer, composer and songwriter who, along with Fela Kuti, pioneered afrobeat music, a new blend of jazz and traditional African juju and highlife, in the mid-1960s. Tony learnt to play drums when he was a radio technician at about the age of 18.
He has his own unique style, using his 4 limbs, not his whole body! He started to play jazz together with Fela in 1964. Fela and Tony continued to develop the afrobeat sound in 1969 when they went to USA and met many top black American musicians. Tony was not only Fela's lead drummer but also had the very important role of musical director of the band Fela Kuti & Africa 70. Many of their original vinyl recordings from the 1970s, such as Jealousy and Progress, No Accomodation for Lagos and No Discrimination, have been reissued on CD.
Tony decided to leave Fela in the late 1970s. Later he moved to Europe where he collaborated with many top musicians like Manu Dibango, Ray Lema and Roy Ayers and spear-headed the successful NEPA (Never Expect Power Always) project. Indeed Tony features on Manu Dibango's Wakafrika CD. The amazing album Black Voices was released in 1999 and once again Tony records with many other top musicians. He wants to fuse afrobeat with modern music like funk, rock and hip-hop, hence he has been working with people like Doctor L for the recording Black Voices and they also both appear on Psycho On Da Bus. He believes that, despite its complexity, afrobeat is gaining popularity.
At present Tony often performs with his own band but also can still be found alongside Manu Dibango, for example, at The Barbican in London in April 2001. He is, without doubt, extraordinary, full of funky, groovy rhythms as well as outstanding, hard-hitting lyrics. Look out for his new CD, Home Cooking! Tony was one of the nominees for the BBC Radio 3 World Music Awards for 2003 in the Africa category.