top of page

Afrobeat pioneer and legendary drummer Tony Allen dies at age 79

Chili Peppers bassist Flea admits that jamming with Allen was “heavenly” and calls him one of the greatest drummers ever.

Many tributes have been paid to the innovative Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen, who has died aged 79.

Allen was born in the Nigerian capital Lagos and didn't start drumming until he was 18.

He met collaborator Fela Kuti in 1964 and along with him played a key role in defining the Afrobeat genre as part of the band Africa '70. Together they went on releasing dozens of albums while giving birth to the Afrobeat genre in the process.

Eric Trosset, his manager, declared the cause of his death is unknown but not linked to Coronavirus. He passed away in his home city of Paris.

“He was healthy and in great shape, so his death was very sudden. I spoke to him at 1 pm and two hours later he felt very bad and was immediately transported to Pompidou hospital, where he then passed away,” Mr. Trosset explained.

Allen’s unique Afrobeat combines West African musical styles with US funk and jazz vibes.

Brian Eno described Allen as one of “the greatest musicians of the 20th century - and the 21st”.

Allen also collaborated with Blur star Damon Albarn and Clash bassist Paul Simonon in The Good group, the Bad & the Queen, publishing two albums.

Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea said Allen has always been his hero and that their time jamming together was “heavenly”.

Reading on Instagram, Flea uttered: “The epic Tony Allen, one of the greatest drummers to ever walk this planet has left us”.

“What a wildman, with a huge, kind and open heart and the deepest one-of-a-kind groove. Fela Kuti did not invent afrobeat, Fela and Tony birthed it together.”

Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, declared: “Another day, and another legend passes on. It's truly unbelievable the rate at which we're losing them. Tony Allen R.I.P.”

Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich on Twitter referred to Allen as “a pioneer whose vibrations changed popular music forever… and the character as well...”

When he eventually passed away, such was his talent, the band reportedly had to hire several drummers to replicate his sound.

So goodbye legend, we will always remember you playing your music on and on.


bottom of page