Mon. May. 20, 2019

Tony Allen: Afrobeat Pulsations

 Fela Kuti & Africa70
© Echoes / Refearns

“Afrobeat is an amalgamation of African rhythms destined to come together as one. With the lyrics to be considered as the expression remaining specific to each track. Afrobeat is nothing else but a music form. As a matter of fact, it’s not surprising to see Femi comin’ up with a cut like ‘Beng, Beng, Beng’ which is a love (if not sex) song. That said, what he does is not 100% Afrobeat even though you can feel where he’s comin’ from. To me, Afrobeat simply is not without its patterns.” Pointing out the difference with Calypso, which although using the same kick, is way more primary in terms of rhythmic ranges…

Don’t ever think Tony doesn’t give a single damn though as to what’s goin’ on in our environment. Such as ‘Don’t Fight’ (from his 2002 ‘HomeCooking’) illustrates this. The lyrics of which getting a renewed meaning in regards to today’s event in the Middle East. “The Muslims fighting against the Jewishes, with the Western powers selling them weapons. Then complaining when seeing their ‘customers’ using them against them! The best way to not have these situations repeating themselves along with time is to refrain from acting like this. It’s totally crazy but unfortunately not new. Wouldn’t we have any better to do but fight for peace? A matter of money? I’m sure we all could live differently…”

‘Film On Life’ travels back through a rich and exemplary musical life. Providing the finishing touch to Tony Allen’s 2013 autobiography. In the retropective, ‘Moving On’, his mellow sun-baked vocals recall each of his previous albums in turn. Showing, if ever we needed proofs, his spirit of endurance and his powers of reinvention. At a time when Afrobeat, like the Blues and Reggae, is being assimilated into the globalized music scene, Allen wants to be clear who’s the boss, to sound out each of the genre’s nuances.  “I’ve always thought of my drums as an orchestra”, confides the fresh-faced 70-years old. “I like to create a melody with my drums when I play. I like to make them sing.” And no one knows how to make them sing like Tony!

At his drum kit, he reminds us of nothing more than a fastidious watchmaker, bending time to his will. Not its slave but its master. A paragon of precision, he spreads his groove. Maniacally scattering semiquaver rests and electrifying flashes of metal. He caresses, whips and hammers his skins and his cymbals. This with an intelligence and economy that are quite simply awe-inspiring.

No grandstanding. No solos. Tony plays like he breathes, with the grace of the ascetic and the wisdom of a sage…

Interview – Tony Allen

You might also like:
(Finding Fela: Fela Forever!)
Fela Anikulapo Ransome Kuti: The Tree Of Life (by Joe Claussell)
Femi Kuti: (Solutions For) A Better World!
Dele Sosimi: Afro-beat Rising!

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