Tony Allen dies aged 79: Tributes paid to Nigerian drummer and Afrobeat pioneer

Tony Allen performs at Glastonbury festival, UK, on June 27, 2010
Tony Allen performs at Glastonbury festival, UK, on June 27, 2010 Copyright LEON NEAL / AFP
By Alessio Dell'AnnaAFP
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"The greatest drummer on Earth has left us," said Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, paying tribute to Tony Allen, who has died aged 79.


Tributes are being paid to Nigerian drummer and Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen who has died in Paris aged 79.

His agent Eric Trosset told AFP news agency the death was unexpected and that Allen had been in "great shape".

"I spoke to him at 1 pm," he said. "Two hours later he was sick and got transported to Pompidou hospital, where he died," he added.

Tony Allen lived in Courbevoie, near Paris.

The Lagos-born musician is known for his pioneering contribution to Afrobeat, a music genre characterised by a hypnotic rhythm mixed with Yoruba polyrhythm, jazz and funk, which become one of the most influential schools of African music in the past century.

He played with compatriot Fela Kuti in the Africa 70 group, recording dozens of albums.

Allen's contribution to the band was so powerful that Kuti had to replace him with four drummers when their collaboration ended.

Self-taught, he started playing at the age of 18 and fed on the music of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker, as well as contemporary African music.

British musician Brian Eno said he was perhaps "the best drummer who ever lived".

During his career, Allen collaborated with several artists, including French musician Sébastien Tellier for "La Ritournelle" song, as well as joined Blur's and Gorillaz's Damon Albarn and Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea in supergroup Rocket Juice & the Moon.

The bassist took to Twitter to pay homage to Allen after his death, calling him the "greatest drummer on earth".

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