Legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, a pioneer of Afrobeat alongside his former bandmate Fela Kuti, hit the beats until his death last year at the age of 79.
And as a new album released this week shows, Allen has never stopped pushing the limits and promoting young talent.
At the time of his death in April 2020, he was immersed in a new project to showcase a new generation of stars.
“Tony wanted to make a rap album, to stage young rappers, boys and girls, but outside the norm,” co-producer of the new album, Vincent Taeger, told AFP.
His friends and collaborators decided to complete the work he had started, culminating in “There Is No End”, which was released on Friday.
“When he left us it was very hard,” Taeger said. “A month later, his label and his manager contacted me to say: ‘You have made a lot of progress, you must respect the wishes of the master and finish the album. “
Allen had already recorded the drum parts and a few basslines, and was exploring potential collaborations with emerging artists.
“Tony has always loved hip-hop. With Fela, there was already the groove, the party, the dance that lasts all night, just like the first evenings of sound-system rap, ”Allen’s manager Eric Trosset told AFP.
– ‘A smuggler’ –
Allen was one of the founding fathers of Afrobeat in the 1960s and 1970s as a drummer for Fela Kuti and musical director of his group Africa ’70.
They recorded around 40 albums together before going their separate ways after a 26-year collaboration.
Allen continued to reach new audiences, notably through his work with Blur frontman Damon Albarn and his groups Gorillaz and The Good, the Bad and the Queen.
For the new album, the only song that had been completed by the time of his death was “Cosmosis” with British rapper Skepta and poet Ben Okri, also of Nigerian descent.
But this represents only a small part of the eclectic mix of styles put together posthumously by Taeger and another frequent collaborator, Vincent Taurelle.
“Rich Black” brings the rhymes of American rapper Koreatown Oddity, while “Tres Magnifique” nods to Tom Waits.
And it is up to the young British star Lava La Rue to follow the tempo set by Allen on “One Inna Million”.
“We managed to make an album that looks like Tony with some really good artists featured, not all of them well known yet, that will give them a boost. Tony has always been a passer that way, ”said Taeger, who goes by the name of Tiger Tiger for his own solo projects.
“At first I said, ‘Damn, Tony isn’t here, it’s gonna be a lot different. He obviously wanted to meet these rappers for recordings around the world, ”he added.
“But he trusted me, he knew I spoke the same language as him. ”
Even without Allen, the possibility of bringing the album to the stage hasn’t been entirely ruled out, said Taeger, who is considering a crowdfunding campaign.
” I thought about it. There are a lot of great drummers like Questlove (from The Roots), Anderson .Paak, who knew him. They could do a few shows to show off Tony’s style. “
© 2021 AFP