Tony Allen needs little introduction. One of the founding fathers of afrobeat, his drumming style has influenced generations of musicians over the past 50 years. An original member of Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 and the inventor of the distinctive afrobeat drum rhythm, Tony went on to collaborate with artists from King Sunny Ade to Damon Albarn, continuing to be a true innovator with his own music, drawing on electronics, dub, rnb + rap in a synthesis he refers to as ‘afrofunk’, clearing his own path and demonstrating the versatility and diversity of his composing and playing.
“Without Tony Allen, there would be no afrobeat” – Fela Kuti
“Perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived” – Brian Eno
With his most recent EP, Tony realizes a childhood dream: to play the music of the most African of the bebop fathers, Art Blakey. This same drummer who spent years in Africa, earning the nickname “Buhaina”, was a major influence on Tony from a young age. When he first heard an Art Blakey record back in Lagos in the early 60s, he thought he was listening to several percussionists playing at the same time, not imagining that a single drummer was playing his instrument. From there on, year after year, he too developed a unique & personal way of playing the drums as if it were an orchestra, building on the Art Blakey legacy. (c) Wormfood
Following on from his EP earlier this year, A Tribute to Art Blakey, Tony Allen presents The Source – an album that both represents Blue Note’s classic era and symbolizes the label’s innovative present. The Source has been cited by Tony Allen himself as being the best recording of his life – an impressive claim given his already-extensive discography, but one that is agreed upon by collaborator and saxophonist Yann Jankielewicz: “Tony has never played drums as well as this. He’s never had as much freedom, never had as much power as he does today.”
The Source is the Nigerian drummer’s first album for Blue Note, one of the most prestigious names in jazz and a label that has diversified considerably since its renaissance in the Eighties. This new album is unique in that it has used precise mixing and analogue recording techniques that have not compromised a single byte; but is also an interesting composition that takes us back to the source of Tony Allen’s art as a musician – Nigeria in the latter half of the 20th century.
Ahead of the master drummer launching his new album at London’s iconic Jazz Cafe on 22nd September. Our own Tim Garcia will be warming up on the night and has done a 100 minute tribute mix to the Afrobeat pioneer.
“This mix explores Tony’s early influences as a jazz drummer in Nigeria when he listened to Art Blakey, Max Roach and also Afro-jazz pioneer Guy Warren aka Kofi Ghanaba.
It then goes onto him playing Highlife/jazz with Fela & The Koola Lobitos, the influence of James Brown in his music and the birth of Afrobeat taking a look at his favourite time as part of Fela’s band the Afrika 70 along with some of his solo Afrobeat material as well. I wasn’t able to find a copy of his 1989 solo record ‘Afrobeat express’, so there is slight jump in the music.
After his ten year musical hiatus we dip back into some of his more contemporary works ‘Black Voices’, ‘Home Cooking’ and ‘Awa Na Re’ are three very different examples of Mr Allen’s ability to push boundaries. We visit his wonderful spoken word/spiritual jazz work-out in collaboration with Jimi Tenor and his 2014 release ‘Film Of Life’.
The mix culminates in Tony coming full circle paying tribute to his hero Art Blakey and then releasing his first album for the legendary Jazz label Blue Note Records.”
Max Roach – The Drum also Waltzes (1966)
Max Roach – All Africa (1960)
Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers – The Drum Thunder Suite (1959)
Art Blakey – Ya ya (1957)
Guy Warren – The High Life (1956)
Fela and His Koola lobitos – Awo (1963-9)
James Brown – Make It Funky (1971)
Fela Kuti & The Africa 70 – Question Jam Answer (1975)
Tony Allen with Africa 70 – No Discrimination (1979)
Tony Allen – Black Voices (1999)
Tony Allen – Home Cooking (2002)
Tony Allen – Awa Na Re (2005)
Tony Allen & Jimi Tenor – Path To Wisdom (2009)
Tony Allen – Ewa (2014)
Tony Allen – Moanin’ (2017)
Tony Allen – On Fire(2017)
Tony Allen – Life Is Beautiful (2017)
You can grab your tickets to Tony Allen’s ‘The Source’ Album Launch at London’s Jazz Cafe on Friday 22nd September here.