Legendary drummer is vying for the title of “Hardest Working Man in
By Blurt Staff
Tony Allen-best known for his work as drummer and musical director for
Afrobeat kingpin Fela Kuti-makes his World Circuit/Nonesuch
debut with Secret Agent, on April 13. Following its European release
earlier this year, Secret Agent has received generous critical praise.
The Guardian proclaimed, “There is no question that Tony Allen is
a genius, one of the greatest percussionists in the history of popular
music,” while Observer Music Monthly said, “If you’re
wondering why Afrobeat is hip, start here.”
Allen’s been pretty busy of late, having teamed with Jimi Tenor for the
album Inspiration Information soon. Go here for
details, along with a promo video clip on the project, and here for the BLURT
review we recently published.
Together with Fela Kuti, with whom he played for 15 years, Allen co-created
Afrobeat-the hard-driving, horns-rich, funk-infused, politically
insurrectionary style that became such a dominant force in African music and is
now one of Africa’s most popular styles among international listeners.
Allen produced Secret Agent, which was recorded with his touring band
of musicians from Nigeria, Cameroon, Martinique and France. The
music is four-square in the Afrobeat tradition-rhythmic tenor guitar, funky
keyboards, call and response vocals, and full-throated horns-with a few twists
(including keyboard player and arranger Fixi’s accordion on some tracks).
Allen’s playing meanwhile draws on four different styles-highlife, soul/funk,
jazz and traditional Nigerian drumming. At Afrobeat’s heart is the beat, even
more prominent now than it was in Fela Kuti’s legendary Afrika ‘70 band.
Secret Agent is Allen’s first solo release since he became a founding
member of The Good, The Bad and The Queen (alongside Damon Albarn, Paul Simenon
and Simon Tong). This association has helped encourage a recent upsurge of
interest in Afrobeat. Over the years Allen has appeared on dozens of albums and
his continued relevance in 2009-fans of hip-hop, funk and jazz clamor for his
recordings-speaks to the staying power of the Afrobeat music that he helped
create in the 1960s.