Last December, Allen was in Nigeria for three weeks, and hosted live performances for his forthcoming 80th birthday anniversary in July 2020.
Speaking on the demise of Allen, Benson Idonije, ace broadcaster, music critic and first band manager of Fela Kuti, noted that Allen was the leading Afrobeat drummer with unmatched dexterity, and that with his death, that phenomenon has disappeared.
“Tony Allen was the pioneering rhythm maker for Afroabeats as the ace drummer of Fela’s band. While Fela Kuti was known as the reference point in Afroabeats, Allen created the rhythm and rhythm plays a very important part in Afroabeats”, Idonije said.
According to the former band manager of Fela Kuti, all the people Allen had influenced with his drumming skills will miss him, while the music world would miss he contributions to quality rhythm and music.
In his tribute to the late legend, Tee Mac Omatshola Iseli, legendary Nigerian musician, former president of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) and old associate of Allen, said, “Tony Allen was a great human being, a good musician, very helpful and wonderful friend. We will miss a five-star drummer who was out there in the world making Nigeria proud. He was professional and not like the jokers we have today”.
Tee Mac recalled his last encounter with Allen on December 26, 2019 when he performed alongside Allen in his pre-birthday party show in Lagos.
“He was in Nigeria last year for three weeks to celebrate his forthcoming 80th birthday, I performed with him as a friend and that was the last time I saw him. It was a reunion and great fun for both of us”, Tee Mac said.
Tee Mac further described Allen, who had been his friend since 1970, and also worked for his band for a year when he left Fela in 1983, as “a five-class human being, and a great musician”.
Tony Allen Break Down Afrobeat’s Major Drum Patterns in Unseen Doc Clip
Tony Allen breaks down the five major drum patterns of Afrobeat in an unreleased clip from the recent documentary short Birth of Afrobeat.
Production team Rest In Beats and director Opiyo Okeyo provided the unseen footage to Rolling Stone following the death of the pioneering drummer Thursday at the age of 79.
Birth of Afrobeat, filmed in 2017 as Allen prepared to record alongside Chicago Afrobeat Project, offers a glimpse into how Fela Kuti and Allen crafted the Afrobeat sound. In this unreleased clip from the short, Allen breaks down the five major drum patterns he employed.
“Afrobeat has different varieties of rhythm. Maybe because I’m in control of that, I don’t know how to stop inventing different beats because when I’m bored with the patterns of the beat, I need to create another one,” Allen says in the clip. “But all what I’m doing is on 4/4 time signature, so it’s just a question of the composition of the patterns, how to group them together.”
Allen added that the most important thing aspiring Afrobeat drummers need to learn is the first major pattern shown in the video.
“Tony had an impact as powerful as Fela Kuti’s voice, though he rarely said much,” Okeyo told Rolling Stone. “His weapon was collaboration and he was Afrobeat’s greatest ambassador. While we were filming, Tony said, ‘Afrobeat is the only major music genre of which you can still count the number of bands on your fingers—from Japan, France, to the U.S.—but that will change, it’s growing.’”
Birth of Afrobeat screened as part of the 26th New York African Film Festival in 2019, and is now part of PBS’ AfroPop: Ultimate Cultural Exchange Series.