Originally published @redbullmusicacademy.com
"Without Tony Allen, there would be no afrobeat," Fela Kuti once remarked of his longstanding collaborator. The Lagos-born drummer introduced a style of playing to the African highlife scene which he modeled after American jazz pioneers like Art Blakey, creating an explosive concoction that fused the best of both worlds. In his 2007 Red Bull Music Academy lecture in Toronto, Tony details his initial encounters with Fela Kuti, whose groundbreaking band he would be an integral part of between 1968 and 1979.
by Tony Allen
When the Blue Note records started coming into the country, I started listening to Art Blakey and I was like: "Wow! This one is different. It's not the same style like Gene Krupa. They were playing jazz, but it's not the same style. I prefer this one." I started to go towards this sound of Art Blakey, Jo Jones. Because Art Blakey doesn't sound like one drummer, he sounds like more than one. So on the record I was imagining, "Is this one guy playing those drums?" I said: "Maybe someone is playing the cymbals or the hi-hats for him?" If he was able to do that, then that means I have to go for that. He was my idol but I didn't know how I was going to be myself.