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Tony Allen: ‘World’s greatest drummer’ and afrobeat pioneer dies

Pioneering Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, a co-founder of the afrobeat musical genre, died in Paris on Thursday aged 79, his manager says.

Eric Trosset told NPR radio that he had died of a heart attack. AFP said his death was not linked to coronavirus.

Allen was the drummer and musical director of musician Fela Kuti’s famous band Africa ’70 in the 1960-70s.

Fela, as he was widely known, died in 1997. He once said that “without Tony Allen, there would be no afrobeat”.

Afrobeat combines elements of West Africa’s fuji music and highlife styles with American funk and jazz.

 

Media captionAfrobeat drummer Tony Allen on learning to drum, working with Fela Kuti and Damon Albarn.
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World stars pay their tributes

Allen has also been described by UK musician Brian Eno as “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived”.

Trosset led tributes in a Facebook post saying “your eyes saw what most couldn’t see… as you used to say: ‘There is no end'”.

Beninois singer Angelique Kidjo told the BBC’s Newsday programme that she had been hit hard by both Allen’s death and the passing of Cameroonian saxophone legend Manu Dibango in March.

“What I want to remember from them is our musical conversation, our laughter, our joy. They are gone, but they are not gone for me,” she said.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Bye bye Tony Allen, beautiful spirit and friend who has changed the history of African music. I was so lucky to work with you on my last 2 albums. Sending lots of love to his family and friends. @allencodrum

A post shared by Angelique Kidjo (@angeliquekidjo) on

On Instagram, she said that Allen had “changed the history of African music”.

Ghanaian rapper M.anifest tweeted that Allen “put the beat in afrobeat” and thanked him “for a lifetime of being quietly epic”.

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