Tony Allen In-depth Biography
The drummer and unofficial music director of the late Fela Kuti}'s band, Africa 70}, from 1968 until 1979, Tony Allen} (born Tony Oladipo Allen}) helped create the sounds of Afro-beat}. With his solo recordings, however, Allen} has refused to remain stagnant, incorporating dub} and avant-garde} hip-hop} influences into his modern African dance music.
A self-taught musician, Allen} began to play drums at the age of 18 while working as a technician for a Nigerian radio station. Within nine months, he had embarked on a professional career as a drummer. Although they had known each other since the early '60s, when they performed on the Nigerian music circuit with different bands, Allen} and Kuti} began playing American-style jazz} together in 1964. Before long, they shifted to a more African-influenced style of highlife jazz}, which they continued to play for five years.
Forming Africa 70} in 1969, Allen} and Kuti} began reaching out to an international audience. A few months later, while touring North America for the first time, Allen} was introduced to the music of James Brown}, Max Roach}, and Art Blakey}. Despite critical acclaim, the group faced numerous obstacles, including financial difficulties, racial discrimination, and political oppression. Arrested during the first of a long series of government-sponsored raids of black townships in 1974, Allen} spent three days in jail. The following year, he released his first album as a leader, Progress}. After performing his last show with Kuti} and Africa 70} at the Berlin Jazz Festival} in 1979, Allen} continued to play with his group Lagos} until emigrating to Europe in 1984. After temporarily living in London, he settled in France the following year and worked as a session drummer for such transplanted African musicians as Ray Lema} and Manu DiBango}, and released N.E.P.A.} (Never Expect Power Always) in 1985.
Allen} was largely inactive for the next decade, re-emerging in the late '90s with a string of singles, culminating in the release of Home Cooking} in 2002. Reissues of his '70s solo albums started showing up around the same time, as well as Eager Hands and Restless Feet: The Best of Tony Allen}, a summation of his post-Fela} career. In 2004 a live album came out, and 2006 saw a return to his Afro-Beat} roots with Lagos No Shaking}, which was recorded in the Nigerian city itself. ~ Craig Harris, All Music Guide