Tony Allen: Four facts about the man described as the “world’s greatest drummer”

Nii Ntreh May 04, 2020
Drummer Tony Allen, performing at the Glastonbury Festival in England in 2010. Allen died April 30 at age 79. Photo Credit: AFP via Getty Images, Leon Neal

The tributes are still coming in for Tony Oladipo Allen, chief drummer for African music legend, Fela Kuti. Allen died in Paris on April 30 and in fairness, the news of his demise was the first time many aficionados of African music heard of him.

It is understandable to have been outshone by Fela Kuti. The legendary Nigerian musician and social activist carried a larger-than-life persona that even authorities struggled to contain.

But Allen held his own. He was the man Kuti could not perform without, the man who saw to the rhythm as Kuti shouted out the words to such famous classics as Zombie, Water No Get Enemy or Teacher, Don’t Teach Me Nonsense in concerts home and abroad.

It is argued by many that Kuti was the earliest pioneer of what has come to be known as Afrobeat. But the genre that gives so much weight to sound over lyrics could not have been conceptualized without Allen’s drums.

Kuti himself is reported to have said: “Without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat.”

But it was the influential British recording artist and music theorist Brian Eno, who described Allen as “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived.”

In celebration of the memory of a man widely acknowledged, Face2FaceAfrica brings you facts not widely known about Allen.

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: May 4, 2020


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