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MALMESBURY, ENGLAND - JULY 23: Tony Allen performs in the Siam Tent on day one of Womad on July 23, 2010 in Malmesbury, England. (Photo by Samir Hussein/Getty Images)

Trailblazing Afrobeat Drummer & Pioneer, Tony Allen, Has Died

"Without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat," Fela Kuti once said of the legendary musician.

Tony Allen, the legendary drummer who helped pioneer Afrobeat as the leader of Fela Kuti's band Africa '70, passed away on Thursday night in Paris. He was 79. The cause of his death has not yet been confirmed, though BBC reports that his manager Eric Trosset told AFP that his death is not linked to the coronavirus.

The Lagos-born musician began playing the drums as a teenager. He was self-taught and pointed to jazz drummers like Art Blakey and Max Roach as his inspirations at the time (he released the EP A Tribute to Art Blakey in 2017).

The musician began playing with Fela in the 1960s and recorded over 30 albums with him and the Africa '70 band. Allen was the backbone of several of Fela's most seminal records including Zombie, Expensive Shit and Gentleman. "Without Tony Allen, there would be no afrobeat," Fela once said of his musical partner.

READ—Afrobeat & Beyond: 16 Songs That Showcase Tony Allen's Masterful Range

The musician parted ways with Fela in 1979 and formed his own group, forming a new polyrhythmic sound which he called "afrofunk." He later moved to Paris and collaborated with a number of renowned African artists, including the late Cameroonian afro-jazz pioneer Manu Dibango, Sunny Adé and more. His work has been credited as a major influence on artists like Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn, who he worked with on the 2014 track "Go Back," Questlove, as well as Brian Eno, who once called him "perhaps the best drummer who ever lived."


Just last month, the artist released a joint album with South African jazz icon Hugh Masekela. It was Masekela's first posthumous release. The two began working together in 2010 after knowing one another for almost 40 years.

Allen spoke to OkayAfrica about the process of working with Masekela on the album's lead single "Slow Bones," stating: "The track was recorded in the same way as the rest of the album. First I would lay down a drum beat. Then the bass was added, and then Hugh created a melody over the top. It's amazing to think that it was 10 years ago. But everything eventually appears at the right time, for a reason."

Allen will be remembered as a trailblazer and the mastermind behind the continent's most influential style of music. Tributes have been pouring out in remembrance of Allen since the news of his passing.

We will keep you updated as more details arise.




Interview

Kofi Jamar Switches Lanes In 'Appetite for Destruction'

The Ghanaian rapper and "Ekorso" hitmaker presents a different sound in his latest EP.

The drill scene in Ghana has been making waves across the continent for some time now. If you're hip to what a crop of young and hungry artists from the city of Kumasi in Ghana and beyond have been doing over the past year, then you already know about rapper Kofi Jamar.

Towards the end of November last year he dropped one of the biggest drill songs to emerge from Ghana's buzzing drill scene, the popular street anthem "Ekorso." In the December and January that followed, "Ekorso" was the song on everyone's lips, the hip-hop song that took over the season, with even the likes of Wizkid spotted vibing to the tune.

Currently sitting at over 10 million streams across digital streaming platforms, the song topped charts, even breaking records in the process. "Ekorso" maintained the number one spot on Apple Music's Hip-Hop/Rap: Ghana chart for two months uninterrupted, a first in the history of the chart. It also had a good stint at number one of the Ghana Top 100 chart as well, among several other accolades.

Even though he's the creator of what could be the biggest song of Ghana's drill movement till date, Kofi Jamar doesn't plan on replicating his past music or his past moves. He has just issued his second EP, a 6-track project titled Appetite for Destruction, and it would surprise you to know that there isn't a single drill song on it. Although drill played a huge role in his meteoric rise, he wants to be known as way more than just a drill rapper. He wants to be known as a complete and versatile artist, unafraid to engage in any genre — and he even looks forward to creating his own genre of music during the course of his career.

We spoke to Kofi Jamar about his latest EP, and he tells us about working with Teni, why he's gravitating away from drill to a new sound, and more. Check out our conversation below.

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