Legendary Lagos-born drummer Tony Allen, who was instrumental to the proliferation of the Afrobeat genre in the 1970s, has tragically passed away at the age of 79.
“We don’t know the exact cause of death,” said Allen’s manager, Eric Trosset, in a statement proved to French news outlet France 24. “He was in great shape; it was quite sudden. I spoke to him at 1:00 pm, then two hours later he was sick and taken to Pompidou hospital where he died.”
Born in Lagos in 1940, Allen rose to prominence as the drummer and creative director of fellow Afrobeat legend Fela Kuti's band Africa 70, recording 30 albums with his Nigerian compatriot over the years. Allen, a self-taught musician who singlehandedly revolutionized the art of drumming, was once referred to as "perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived" by iconic English musician Brian Eno.
Afrobeat is at the bedrock of electronic music. Its percussive and rhythmic elements serve as its backbone, and the genre may not exist today without Allen's contributions and early pioneering developments. In their report on Allen's unfortunate death, Rolling Stone characterized Kuti and Allen's style as "full-band dance music, boosted by searing, intricate horn parts, scratchy, relentless guitar, and agitated, hyperactive bass lines."
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Our deepest condolences go out to Tony Allen's family and loved ones. As of the time of writing, a cause of death has not been announced.