It is very hard to talk about the most influential drummers in history without mentioning Tony Allen.
Tony Allen contribution to the music industry has been immensely appreciated across generations. His dedication to making quality music was just something everyone would love to have.
At one instance, Afrobeat co-inventor Fela Kuti told commended his playing styles, saying, “It’s incredible, the way you play one would not even need a percussionist.” And this the best way to describe Allen’s style. It was as if the drum understood him and would produce sounds without him even having to strike them – but he did anyway.
This Nigerian-Ghanaian innovator was described as a polyrhythmic groove machine. It was his style of making cool music, and everything around him joined in the passion that gave him such a title.
He was the name that made headlines as he added jazz and funk to local West African genres like highlife, apala, and Nigerian mambo. Hence, he was not only a drummer with a passion but someone with a dream.
Tony saw different sounds everywhere he worked. Music flowed in his blood, allowing him to bring together these varying rhythms into some of the most fundamental tunes heard in the region even today.
Tony Allen – An Autobiography of the Master Drummer of Afrobeat
While playing jazz in Lagos, Allen met Fela, who asked him to join his team as the drummer and band leaders. They started their journey together in Koola Lobitos before moving to Africa from 1965 to 1970. At this time, Allen was compelled to exit as he could no longer handle Fela’s “dictator ideology” and distracting politics.
Allen was a man with an independent and open mind that could not allow him to take in some things. But that did not stop him from being the best drummer who ever lived in the West African Region.
Drumming new styles was not very much acknowledged in the region then, but his dedication and innovativeness made sure the music rolled in the air. As Fela admitted, there would be no Afrobeat without Allen. The drummer had so much influence, which would be heard in the Talking Heads, Gorillaz, and many other afro-fusion outfits.
It was Allen’s work that ensured Afro-beats lived on to see the light of the day. And it has remained so ever since. Many tunes that are used today originated from his work. He was seen as the drummer would change the drumming industry forever.
After his departure with Fela, Allen continued inventing newer and major styles. He put more effort into pushing envelopes in the collaborations and hybrid solo synthesis he called afro-funk.
Most of these beats were inspired by his personality and view about life in general. “I am a cool person,” he was heard admitting in one instance. He also admitted that he played drums the same way he behaved in life.
Hence, his drumming was more personal and carried such a deep sensation that every listener would be pulled top it. Allen knew what he wanted, and he reached for it, this way, he was able to build incredible styles useful today.