Black Voices

Tony Allen

Black Voices

Unquestionably one of the most accomplished African instrumentalists of the second half of the 20th century, Tony Allen—the drummer and musical director for Fela Kuti’s legendary backing band The Nigeria 70—effectively established the rhythmic vocabulary of Afrobeat. Allen’s playing fused traditional West African rhythms with elements of highlife, jazz, soul, and funk, influencing a whole generation of African, European and American musicians in the process. Allen emigrated from Nigeria to Europe in the mid-‘80s and spent much of the following decade collaborating with the likes of Manu Dibango and King Sunny Ade. In the late ‘90s, Allen re-emerged with Black Voices. The album was a startling leap forward and represented a move away from the horn-saturated big-band arrangements of his classic recordings with Fela toward a sparser, dub-inflected sound influenced by the dark textures of trip-hop. These more contemporary influences could be partly due to Irish producer Liam “Doctor L” Farrell, whose tendency to strip arrangements back to their rhythmic fundamentals creates a dramatic showcase for Allen’s instrumental inventiveness.

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