Monday, September 28, 2020

Building with Lagos

We're gonna finish off September with someone who left us last Spring, and whom I wanted to cover on what would have been his 80th birthday on July 20th, but I couldn't because I had no computer.

Now that that's changed, we can right that wrong on the 8th anniversary of a bangin' set from the man, at the helm of a pretty steamy ensemble.

Surely one of the most influential musicians that shall ever do it, the tributes that poured in from all over the globe, and from all style and manner of players, tell the tale of exactly what he meant to the music of our age.

Born in Lagos in 1940, he started playing the drums at age 18, joining the band of future Afrobeat progenitor Fela Kuti when he was in his twenties.

As the Sixties became the Seventies and Fela's militant, Afrocentric vision came into focus, our hero became the musical director of the Afrika 70, and began to evolve a drum vocabulary and style that had never really existed before.

Part Jazz, part Highlife, and part stuttering herd of charging Funk Elephants, this style became what is now termed Afrobeat, and beyond Fela its main, vital and most indispensable architect was today's esteemed honoree.

Once the money got too squirrelly and Fela got too ego-mad, he split that group and went solo at the beginning of the 1980s.

Forty more years at the forefront of rhythmic innovation followed, with collaborations all over the map from Rock (The Good, The Bad & The Queen, Blur) to Jazz (his own groups) to Electronica (Air) to Hip Hop (Gorillaz) and back again.

I'm not much for quantity emphasis, but 60 years as a front-line, innovative player in almost every conceivable context is, for my money, the basis to make the bold statement that Tony Allen -- who passed from an abdominal aneurysm on April 30th -- may have been the most prolific and influential drummer of our entire lifetimes.

We will celebrate his life and unquantifiable legacy with a completely cooking hour from German radio exactly eight years ago, when his collaboration with Funk wizard Amp Fiddler and a whole group of top-flight cohorts was racing up the charts.

Tony Allen
Theaterzelt Burgplatz
Düsseldorf, Germany

01 Secret Agent
02 One Tree
   03 Ijo
04 Busy Body 
05 Eparapo
06 Ariya
                07 Afro Disco Beat incl. FM outro

Total time: 57:33

Tony Allen - drums & vocals
Amp Fiddler - keyboards, vocals & Vocoder
Audrey Gbaguidi - vocals & percussion
Andre "Foxxe" Williams - guitar
Kologbo Oghene - guitar & percussion
Cesar Anot - bass
Éric François Rohner - tenor saxophone
Gilles Garin - trumpet

digital capture of the original Funkhaus Europa "World Live" FM broadcast
399 MB FLAC/September 2020 archive link

I shall return in October with yet more grease for your gears, as we creep up upon the 7-year anniversary of this ridiculous page.

They say your personality is completely formed by age 7, so we shall see what that means going forward!

Be that as it may, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves, and remember to never forget Tony Allen, who was pretty damn far ahead himself over the course of a half-century exploring the molecular alteration of the possibilities of Music.--J.

7.20.1940 - 4.30.2020

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