Legendary drummer and Afrobeat progenitor Tony Allen dies aged 79

The longtime Fela Kuti collaborator passed away in Paris.

Tony Allen, acclaimed drummer and one of the progenitors of Afrobeat, has died. He was 79.

The Nigerian musician died on April 30 in Paris, where he had lived for many years. The cause of death was a heart attack, his manager told NPR.

Alongside his longtime collaborator Fela Kuti, with whom he released over 30 albums, several of them classics, Allen helped birth the genre of Afrobeat. “Without Tony Allen,” Kuti famously said, “there would be no Afrobeat.”


The duo began to collaborate in the mid-1960s, forming the band Africa 70 in 1969. Allen would perform with them for the next decade, moving to Europe in 1984 and settling in France in 1985. Allen was highly prolific: He played with his bands Lagos and the Afro Messengers, served as session musician for many artists, and in 2006 formed The Good, the Bad & the Queen with Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz), Paul Simonon (The Clash) and Simon Tong (The Verve).

Allen’s final album was a long-gestating collaboration with late South African saxophonist Hugh Masekela, Rejoice. It was released last month and featured the tracks “Slow Bones” and “We’ve Landed.”

Tributes have poured in for Allen from Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, Radiohead’s Nigel Godrich, Peter Gabriel, Foals’ Yannis Philippakis and many more.


RIP, Tony Allen. Revisit one of his many iconic albums with Fela Kuti, 1976’s Zombie:

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