World Greatest Drummer - Tony Allen
Born in Lagos in 1940, Tony Oladipo Allen never took up traditional African percussion instruments, but when working as a technician for Nigerian national radio he discovered and was immediately drawn to their distant cousin: the drums.
Although in all honesty, if African rhythms began to alter the course of Western pop music, it is above all down to Tony Allen. No drummer better embodies the primordial vitality of those rhythms, nor devotes greater energy to maintaining their presence at the cutting edge of modern music.
A true autodidact, it was by listening to the recordings of the great American bebop drummers, Art Blakey and Max Roach, that he invented a technique he would gradually refine by honing his command of the cymbals – in particular the hi–‐hat, little used by African drummers – and the tom–‐toms.
In the mid–‐1960s his destiny was to change forever when he met a fresh young graduate of the Trinity College of Music recently returned from England, a trumpet player by the name of Fela Anikulapo Kuti. Their collaboration began as original co–‐members of the renowned highlife–‐jazz band, Koola Lobitos, before taking on far more epic proportions when Kuti set the world on fire with Afrobeat.
Where the rhythmic patterns of Yoruba meet instrumental funk, with lyrics shot through with the rhetoric of the Black Panthers and theories of Pan–‐Africanism, this revolutionary new style saw Kuti hailed as the “Black President” of Afrobeat. His position was upheld by the supple yet precise rhythms of Allen’s human metronome for over fifteen years before their paths diverged.