Drummer Tony Allen, driver of Afrobeat sound, dies at 79

Entertainment
Tony Allen

In this photo taken Wednesday, April 5, 2017, pioneering African drummer Tony Allen, whose influential career spanned decades and continents, poses for a portrait ahead of a concert with Senegalese musician Cheikh Lo in Dakar, Senegal. Tony Allen, the driver of the Afrobeat sound who formed a partnership with guitarist and composer Fela Kuti, died of aortic failure at the Pompidou Hospital in Paris aged 79 on Thursday night, his manager Eric Trosset confirmed to The Associated Press on Friday, May 1, 2020. (AP Photo/Sylvain Cherkaoui)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Pioneering drummer Tony Allen, the driver of the Afrobeat sound, has died in Paris at age 79.

Allen died Thursday night at the Pompidou Hospital of an aortic aneurysm, his manager Eric Trosset confirmed to The Associated Press.

In an influential career that spanned decades and continents, Allen started drumming in Nigeria’s Lagos in the 1960s and formed a partnership with Fela Kuti, composer, singer, bandleader and saxophonist. They are credited with launching the catchy Afrobeat dance music featuring prominent guitars, complex brass harmonies and poly-rhythmic drumming.

With a prolific output throughout the 1970s, Allen and Kuti gained sales and fame throughout Africa, Europe and North America.

Kuti’s outspoken criticism of corruption and human rights abuses got him and his band into repeated trouble with Nigerian authorities and in 1978 Allen left to concentrate on his own music.

He collaborated with many of the world’s top musicians including Brian Eno, Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorrillaz, Paul Simonon of the Clash and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

This year Allen released Rejoice, a CD of music he created with late South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela.

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