The Nigerian legendary songwriter, composer and drummer, Tony Oladipo Allen was born on 12 August 1940 in Lagos, Nigeria. He is popularly known as the musical director and drummer of the famous Fela Kuti band, Africa’70. He is considered as one of the primary co-founders of the Afrobeat music genre. The English musician, Brian Eno described him as “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived”. His career and life story have been documented in his 2013 autobiography Tony Allen: Master Drummer of Afrobeat. The legendary drummer, composer and songwriter has definitely been a source of inspiration and encouragement to many artists in Nigeria and throughout the world.
Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about the legendary Nigerian drummer, Tony Oladipo Allen:
1. Tony Oladipo Allen was born on 12 August 1940 in Lagos, Nigeria.
2. At the age of 14, he began to play the drum-kit while working as an engineer for a Nigerian radio station.
3. He was hired by Sir Victor Olaiya to play claves with his highlife band, the Cool Cats.
4. In 1964, he was invited by Fela Kuti, to audition for a jazz-highlife band he was forming. Fela Kuti and he had played together as sidemen in the Lagos circuit.
5. He recorded over 30 albums with Fela and Africa ’70, arguably Fela’s best works. In 1979, He left Africa’70, in search of his own sound.
6. He formed his own group, recording the song titled “No Discrimination” in 1980, and performing in Lagos until immigrating to London in 1984.
7. He has worked and shared the stage with prominent legendary entertainment stars like King Sunny Ade, Fela Kuti, Archie Shepp, Manu Dibango, Susheela Raman and Ray Lema to mention a few.
8. In 2002, he appeared on the Red Hot Organization’s compilation album Red Hot and Riot in tribute to Fela Kuti.
9. In 2004 he recorded with Parisian artist, Sébastien Tellier on the Frenchman’s album titled “Politics” including the popular song “La Ritournelle”. He also made an appearance playing the drums in the video for “Once Upon a Time” by French duo Air in late 2007.
10. He has influenced a range of artists across a number of genres. In the single Music Is My Radar (2000) Blur pay homage to Tony Allen, and the song ends with Damon Albarn repeating the phrase “Tony Allen got me dancing.”