In memoriam Tony Oladipo Allen (RIP)

Tony Oladipo Allen

Tony Oladipo Allen (born July 20th, 1940, in Lagos, Nigeria, died April 30th, 2020 in Paris, France) was a Nigerian drummer, composer, and songwriter who lived and worked in Courbevoie, France.

Tony Allen played drums for Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 and Egypt 80 organizations, pioneering the unique beat and vibe of Afrobeat music which combines polyrhythmic influences of Africa with the breakbeats and extended jams of the American funk and R&B which reached Nigeria in the late 60s and early 70s.

Afrobeat music has since re-influenced western dance music in fusion genres like broken beat and future jazz, as in the music of Bugz In The Attic.

see also my previous post  Fela Kuti -the black President -Yellow Fever -Decca Afrodisia 1976

I can remember the night of the concert by Fela Kuti in Amsterdam on 28 November 1983 in Paradiso, the great temple of pop, like it is yesterday.  Everyone in Amsterdam and within the borders of  Holland who loved African music must have been there as it was sold out, with many people outside trying to get in

the pics used in this post are not from the Amsterdam 1983 concert.

It seemed like  some royalty was in town  for a visit. The hall was packed and it took a long time before the show began. The audience was getting restless, whipped up by the hot Afro-beat that the DJ  played beforehand, and after much cheering and applause the stage was finally lit. Or rather, a follow spot captured a naked woman painted in bright war paint who entered the stage on hands and feet, chained to the neck drawing another six or seven slaves with her in captivity. These women were the wives of Fela Kuti who held  the chain around their necks tightly.

The band started this hypnotic Afro-beat; the song “Political Statement Number 1” and Fela took place behind the organ, sang and played soprano sax. Not at the same time but stretched out over a three hour set. The dancers and the band whipped each other into a frenzy until the man behind the microphone started “Sorrow, Tears & Blood”. Fela with his entourage glowed in the dark.

The room was boiling, the crowd delirious, the show transcended the regular program of standard performances into a very intense experience, it felt like a spiritual political meeting with Fela Kuti as high priest, as a leader.

This unique concert was recorded from the mixing desk at the night, mixed in London by Dennis Bovell and later released as the album “Music Is The Weapon” in 1984.

I will present the complete album in a following post so here today I propose an early 12” that was originally released in Nigeria by Kalakuta Records  in 1977. This disc features one of the biggest hits by Fela Kuti, then still performing under the name ‘Africa 70 Organization‘;  ‘Sorrow, Tears & Blood’ and ‘Colonial Mentality’ 

The label does not mention any titles or credits but the name of the artist and label info.

Fela Kuti & Africa 70 Organization -Colonial Mentality

Fela Anikulapo Kuti & Africa 70 Organization – Kalakuta Records Nigeria KK001 -1977

All pictures by Bernard Matussiere- November 28th 1983

4 thoughts on “In memoriam Tony Oladipo Allen (RIP)-Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 and Egypt 80

  1. Tony Allen was indeed a great drummer. What would Fela’s early music been without him. He also did great stuff later after separating from Fela.
    I had the great pleasure of hearing and seeing Fela live in a concert in Hamburg in the mid-1980s (I still have the ticket somewhere with the date but don’t know it now exactly now). It was great.
    “Colo mentality” is a favorite of mine as well as of my wife who is a native speaker of the same West African Pidgin that Fela uses here (and which has turned into a creole language in the linguistic sense), so this is actually the language I hear most, although we live in Germany. The Cameroonian variety she is speaking is not very different.
    When hearing this again, I just realized that besides strong influences of Jazz and Soul, there is also a strong Akpala influence, especially in the way he sings (e.g. around 9:03). It reminds me of Haruna Ishola and other musicians like him.

    1. Nannus, thanks for sharing your memory and valuable knowledge. Especially important now that Tony Allen is no longer with us. The West African pidgin English that Fela used is one of those charming and innovative examples of the cultural mix of then and nowadays.

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