Nigerian drummer Tony Allen was one of the most important Afrobeat musicians. He died in April last year, which did not stop the release of his new album “There Is No End”, which was supported by many guests.
On the intro to Tony Allen’s posthumous There Is No End, we hear the voice of the iconic Nigerian-born, Paris-based drummer himself, explaining this album’s very title. Quite literally, he says “there is no end” to the hypnotic loop of a distinctive drum groove called Afrobeat, which Allen created and implemented as a cofounder of Fela Kuti’s groundbreaking band Africa 70.
On a more spiritual note, there is no end to the creative legacy of a figure like Allen, despite his death in 2020 at 79.
With Afrobeat’s supple accents and subdivisions, its calm yet inescapable funk, Allen impacted groove-based music in a league comparable to fellow drummers Bernard Purdie and Clyde Stubblefield.
In his post-Fela years, Allen struck up collaborations with the likes of Blur’s and Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn, who coproduced “Cosmosis” here (featuring Nigerian British rapper Skepta and Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri).
Allen also signed with Blue Note and released The Source in 2017, favoring a more acoustic sound with brass and saxophones. There Is No End, by contrast, places Allen in more of a hip-hop context, collaborating with younger rappers and singers. Allen completed the backbone of the project in 2019, but it was up to producers Vincent Taeger and Vincent Taurelle to finish it with Allen’s blessing after his death.
Allen’s airborne beats hold it all together, and the rappers feed off of his drive and syncopation with riveting results—especially the female guests on “Stumbling Down” (Zambian-born Sampa the Great), “Mau Mau” (Kenyan-born Nah Eeto), and “One Inna Million” (West London underground phenom LAVA LA RUE). Detroit’s Danny Brown takes a ferocious turn on “Deer in Headlights,” its grungy, stripped-down feel highlighting Allen’s trademark groove with exceptional clarity.
NMR (photo: Ennio Leanza)