Jun 28, 2009

Tony Allen - Afro Disco Beat

The complete '70s anthology of Tony Allen- drummer and music director for African superstar Fela Kuti's band Africa 70, from 1968 until 1979, the pioneers of "Afrobeat" one of the (if not THE) hippest rhythmic music styles of the 70s. This massive collection includes Tony´s first four solo albums: Jealousy (´75), Progress (´76), No Accomodation for Lagos (´78), and No Discrimination (´79). The first three produced by Fela Kuti himself and with Africa 70, the last one with Tony´s band The Afro Messengers.

Mild-mannered, but iron-willed, Tony Allen is the co-creator of Afrobeat, and one of the most distinctive and in-demand drummers on the planet. No one swings like this Nigerian rhythm man – with that amazing, loose-limbed, poly-rhythmic technique that has powered some of the funkiest and most challenging dance music ever created.

Best known for his involvement with the late, great Fela Kuti, Tony Allen is much more than Fela’s – or anyone else’s – drummer. Bandleader, composer and husky rapping vocalist, Tony Allen has recorded a string of groundbreaking solo albums since parting company with Fela in 1978 – sides that draw together African rhythm, funk, jazz, soul and hip hop. His inimitably propulsive skinwork has enhanced the work of an amazing range of artists, from afro-giants Manu Dibango, Ray Lema and Sunny Ade to British-Indian songstress Susheela Raman and Californian rock-rappers Spearhead.

The recent upsurge of interest in afrobeat has seen this music drawn into every conceivable kind of crossover encounter, from endless dance remixes to hip hop and reggae collaborations. Tony Allen's work is a testament to the fact that afrobeat is best served straight – hot, hard and percussion-heavy.

Tony Allen grew up surrounded by rhythm: the local palm-wine and juju sounds loved by his motor mechanic father, and the pan-African, big-band highlife then sweeping the clubs of Africa – exemplified by the great Ghanaian bandleader E. T. Mensah. The young Tony developed an obsession with drums. But opportunities to get near a kit were few and far between in 1950s Lagos. He made his professional debut at the age of 18, while working as a radio technician, playing claves with Sir Victor Olaiya – self-styled Evil Genius of Highlife – and his Cool Cats. When the regular drummer left, Tony was handed the sticks. He went on honing his technique with Negu Morris & the Heatwaves, the Nigerian Messengers and the Western Toppers Highlife Band; his role models Art Blakey and the brilliant Ghanaian drummer Guy Warren aka Koffi Ghanaba.

In 1964 Tony was invited to audition for a band called Koola Lobitos, led by a young Nigerian just returned from music studies in London, named Fela Kuti. Fela’s influence on the young drummer was incalculable. But then so was Tony’s on Fela. Here was exactly the musician Fela had been looking for: capable of fusing jazz and highlife sensibilities and sounding, as Kuti put it, ‘like five drummers at once’. If Fela was afrobeat’s mind and mouth, Tony Allen was its arms and legs, his webs of cascading off-beats endlessly powering the music forward.

Allen split with Fela in 1978 – citing the bandleader’s lack of care for his musicians. He relocated to Paris in 1980, involving himself in an amazing diversity of collaborative projects over the succeeding decades.

1. Jealousy
2. Hustler
3. Progress
4. Afro-Disco-Beat
5. No Accomodation For Lagos
6. African Message
7. No Discrimination
8. Road Safety
9. Ariya
10. Love Is A Natural Thing

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