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Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen hailed as a ‘titan’ after death at 79

The Nigerian musician was a drumming pioneer.

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Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen has died, aged 79 (Zak Hussein/PA)

Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen has died, aged 79 (Zak Hussein/PA)

Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen has died, aged 79 (Zak Hussein/PA)

Influential drummer Tony Allen has been hailed as a “titan” after his death at the age of 79.

The Nigerian musician, together with Fela Kuti, helped define the Afrobeat genre as part of the band Africa ’70.

A representative for the musician said: “It is with great sadness that we share that the legendary Tony Allen passed away yesterday afternoon at the age of 79.”

Blue Note Records, which released Allen’s music, said: “RIP #TonyAllen, a towering musical legend who pioneered Afrobeat alongside Fela Kuti & was also a jazz drummer at heart who idolized Art Blakey, Max Roach & Kenny Clarke. We were proud to release Tony’s recent explorations of his deep jazz influences.”

Lauren Laverne wrote: “Incredibly sad to hear the news about #TonyAllen. I was fortunate enough to interview him several times – it was always a fantastic experience.

“Such an inordinately gifted musician who wore his talent with such elan.”

Singer Beverley Knight wrote simply: “RIP TITAN.”

Allen was a frequent and longtime collaborator with Blur star Damon Albarn, with the pair joined by the Clash’s Paul Simonon and Simon Tong of the Verve in supergroup The Good, The Bad And The Queen.

Flea, the bassist for rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers and a collaborator of Allen’s, shared a lengthy tribute on Instagram, describing Allen as “one of the greatest drummers to ever walk this Earth”.

He wrote: “What a wildman, with a massive, kind and free heart and the deepest one-of-a-kind groove. Fela Kuti did not invent afrobeat, Fela and Tony birthed it together. Without Tony Allen there is NO afrobeat.”

Flea, who formed group Rocket Juice & The Moon with Allen and Albarn, described working with the drummer as “heavenly”, saying “he was and still is, my hero”.

He added: “With Tony’s longtime musical collaborator, friend and champion, Damon Albarn, we jammed til the cows came home. We partied in Nigeria, we partied around Europe, and it was always about the music. Just grooving high, grooving deep.

“Tony Allen I love you, I’m so grateful to have had the chance to rock with you. God bless your beautiful soul.”

Sean Lennon, the son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, said: “Another day another legend passes on. It’s really incredible the rate at which we’re losing them. Tony Allen R.I.P.”

Allen was a self-taught drummer and did not pick up the sticks until he was 18.

Despite coming to the drums relatively late, electronic music pioneer Brian Eno reportedly described him as perhaps the greatest drummer ever.

PA