Tony Allen

Tony Allen Biography / Profile

Tony Oladipo Allen was born on August 12th, 1940 in Lagos, Nigeria. Born into a family of mixed Nigerian and Ghanaian parentage, Allen is the unofficial music director of the late Fela Kuti's band, Africa 70, from 1968 until 1979.

Tony Allen Age

Tony Allen is 79 years old.

Tony Allen Early Life

A self-taught musician, Allen began to play drums at the age of 18 while working as a technician for a Nigerian radio station. Within nine months, he had embarked on a professional career as a drummer. 

Allen had to overcome strong parental opposition to realise his dream of becoming a professional musician. 'My parents were…not keen. Back then, in Lagos, musicians were more or less thought of as beggars, or worse. But I just put it in front of them. I was an electrical technician, but I wanted to make a change. My mother was never happy about it, but my father, who was an amateur musician, eventually agreed."

Tony Allen Career

Allen began working as a professional musician in 1960, gigging around Lagos and variously playing highlife and jazz. When he started, he tried to play like Gene Krupa. Then he discovered Blue Note Records and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers which opened up another style to hum.

 Although Allen and Kuti had known each other since the early '60s, when they performed on the Nigerian music circuit with different bands, they began playing American-style jazz together in 1964. Before long, they shifted to an African-influenced style of highlife jazz, which they continued to play for five years.

Never Expect Power Always Forming Africa 70 in 1969, Allen and Kuti reached out to an international audience. A few months later, while touring North America for the first time, Allen was introduced to the music of James Brown, Max Roach, and Art Blakey. Despite critical acclaim, the group faced numerous obstacles, including financial difficulties, racial discrimination, and political oppression. Arrested during the first of a long series of government-sponsored raids of black townships in 1974, Allen spent three days in jail.

The following year, he released his first album as a leader, Progress. After performing his last show with Kuti and Africa 70 at the Berlin Jazz Festival in 1979, Allen continued to play with his group Lagos until immigrating to Europe in 1984. After temporarily living in London, he settled in France the following year and worked as a session drummer for such transplanted African musicians as Ray Lema and Manu DiBango, and released Never Expect Power Always (N.E.P.A.) in 1985.

Allen was largely inactive for the next decade, although he re-emerged in the late '90s with a string of singles, culminating in the release of Home Cooking in 2002. Reissues of his '70s solo albums started showing up around the same time, as well as Eager Hands and Restless Feet: The Best of Tony Allen, a summation of his post-Fela career. In 2004, a live album was released, and 2006 saw him return to his Afro-beat roots with Lagos No Shaking, which was recorded in the Nigerian city itself.

That same year, Allen co-founded the British alternative rock outfit the Good, the Bad & the Queen alongside Paul Simonon (the Clash), Simon Tong (the Verve), and Damon Albarn (Blur) and released a well-received eponymous album under the moniker in 2007, followed in 2009 by an all-new collection of Afro-beat material called Secret Agent, as well as Inspiration Information, Vol. 4 with Jimi Tenor. He also guested on Zap Mama's full-lengths Supermoon and ReCreation.

In 2010, the Black Voices album was remastered and released in unedited session form under the title Black Voices Re-Visited. Allen further collaborated with Albarn and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea in the band Rocket Juice & the Moon. They released a self-titled album in 2013. He returned to recording solo in 2014 with a French trio, the Jazz Bastards. The results, titled Film of Life, featured guest appearances by Albarn, American-born Nigerian singer Kuku, and the renowned vocal ensemble Adunni & Nefertiti. It was released by Jazz Village in October 2014 and landed in the Top Five of the World Music Albums chart.

Sounding Lines After a tour, Allen resumed studio activity collaborating with others. His credits included playing with the Moritz von Oswald Trio on Sounding Lines, with Jimi Tenor and Nicole Willis on the club hit "All for You," and on the track "2nd Chance" from Cerrone's comeback album, Red Lips. He also issued Nu Guinea with his electronics and percussion group the Tony Allen Experiments, and guested on the Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra's AHEO and Instituto's Violar albums. In May of 2017, Allen appeared on Blue Note with the four-track EP A Tribute to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, featuring an international sextet and septet. That September, he followed up with full-length The Source, recorded in collaboration with saxophonist Yann Jankielewicz and featuring an appearance by fellow the Good, the Bad & the Queen bandmate Damon Albarn. He also found time to perform on Oumou Sangare's comeback album Mogoya.

Tony Allen Personal Life

Today living in the suburbs of Paris with his wife and their three sons, Allen has long been acknowledged as Africa's finest kit drummer and one of it's most influential musicians.

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Tony Allen Awards

In 2016, Allen was ranked as number 33 of the 100 greatest drummers of all times by Rolling Stone.

Tony Allen Net Worth

His net worth is not available.

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