Fela Kuti

Secrets of Afrobeat: Dissecting Tony Allen’s Subtle and Unique Style

Fela KutiAfrobeat, as created by the late Nigerian musician Fela Anikulapo Kuti, is a captivating musical genre full of subtlety. On first listen, you may think you understand what’s going on, but once you sit down to play the parts, whether it’s along with a recording or live with a band, a whole new world opens up.

The signature Afrobeat sound surfaced after Fela took a trip to the United States in 1969, during which he discovered the power of bebop and free jazz and began finding his voice of sociopolitical protest. In the years prior, Fela had a career as a highlife musician and had already begun to incorporate soul-music sounds into his compositions. Upon his return to Africa, he realized the potential in bringing together the gritty funk of James Brown and Geraldo Pino, the jazz of Guy Warren and John Coltrane, and the swinging highlife music of Nigeria’s Ambrose Campbell. The resultant sound was a true melting pot of styles. Continue Reading →

Story of the Fela Kuti & Africa 70’s “Mister Follow Follow”

“Mr. Follow Follow” is from Fela’s 1976 album Zombie, which was a watershed in Fela’s confrontational relationship with the Nigerian army. The fury stirred up among the authories by the albums Alagbon Close 1974 and and Kalakuta Show in 1976, and the harassments Fela and Africa 70 suffered as a consequence, were as nothing compared to the repsials following Zombie…

On the title track, in a typically forthright and memorable lyric, Fela ridiculed the mindset of the army and likened its footsoldiers to zombies. It’s one of history’s all-time best insults, and it goes on for over 12 minutes.

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Tony Allen – An Autobiography of the Master Drummer of Afrobeat by Michael E. Veal (Part 2)

Fela Kuti’s High-life Jazz Band

“…Tony Allen was at the epicenter of Fela’s music, from their mutual fascination with straight-ahead jazz in the early 1960s, through the swinging, good-time days of dance-band highlife in post-independence Ghana and Nigeria at mid-decade, through the funk and Black Power epiphanies in Los Angeles at decade’s end, to Fela’s countercultural “Kalakuta Republic” in 1970s, and on into the early years of African music’s global presence in the “world beat” market of 1980s and 1990s. Their story began as one of friendship and collaboration, and later degenerated through a series of misunderstandings that provided yet another vivid example of the destructive impact of fame and the sobering effects of personal tragedy. Continue Reading →

Tony’s contribution on Afrobeat music

Here is a short passage from the Tony Allen’s autobiographical book (Michael Veal’s “TONY ALLEN an autobiography of the master drummer of afrobeat). You will read how Tony Allen creates his unique afrobeat patterns with the great orchestra of Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s Africa 70 and how people reacted this unique patterns of afrobeat on the times that they are being played actively on Fela’s Shrime. 

“… With all those tecniques I had brought back, it was too much for these drummers! Plus all those subtle things I was doing inside the groove matched up beautifully with that what Kofi was doing on the congas. Kofi played the congas with his hands and with sticks as well, and he was a master at getting all the different tones out of the drums. He played on the head, he played on the side of the drum, and he played on the rim. We sounded great together.

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