PARIS, France (CelebrityAccess) — Pioneering Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, whose innovations helped to define the Afrobeat sound, died in Paris on Thursday. He was 79.
His manager, Eric Trosset, told NPR that Allen died of a heart attack. According to the AFP, Allen’s death was not related to COVID-19.
Allen taught himself the drums while working as an engineer at a radio station on Lagos, fusing elements of traditional Nigerian pop music, and imported American jazz records from artists such as Max Roach and Art Blakey.
In 1964, he successfully auditioned with legendary Nigerian musician Fela Kuti and landed a role as a founding member of Kuti’s Koola Lobitos jazz combo.
Allen went on to record on more than 30 albums with Fela but exited the group in the late 1970s over a creative dispute over credits and royalties.
He then formed his own group No Discrimination and continued to perform in Lagos before relocating to London in 1984, and later Paris.
In Paris, he continued to innovate his own unique sound, bringing in elements of hip-hop, R&B, and electronic music to form a synthesis he dubbed Afrofunk.
His later musical collaborates included Verve guitarist Simon Tong, Gorillaz co-founder Damon Albarn, French singer-songwriter, Charlotte Gainsbourg and techno legend Jeff Mills.
Allen’s final album, Rejoice — a collaboration with the late South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela — was released last month via World Circuit Records.