Tony Allen, who drummed his way out of Lagos, Nigeria, with Fela Kuti to become an architect of the Afrobeat sound, has died. He was 79.
Allen’s work on percussion starting in the mid-1960s set in motion a seemingly endless rhythm that first upended a city, then a continent and, finally, the world.
Allen’s death in his longtime home of Paris was announced by Rikki Stein, who represents the Kuti estate. No cause of death was given.
United as post-colonial strife was consuming their country, Kuti and Allen drew on the country’s pop music of the time, called high life, in their early work. But, as retold in the hit Broadway musical “Fela!,” during a visit to Los Angeles in 1969, Kuti, Allen and the rest of the band converged with area Black Panthers through activist Sandra Isadore. Emboldened, the band returned to Lagos and energized the country with combative, Allen-propelled drum riots.
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