Book: Tony Allen: An Autobiography of the Master Drummer of Afrobeat

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Tony Allen: An Autobiography of the Master Drummer of Afrobeat

Tony Allen, with Michael E. Veal, professor of ethnomusicology, American studies, and African-American studies

(Duke University Press)

This book is the autobiography of Nigerian drummer Tony Allen, the “rhythmic engine” of Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat. It is based on hundreds of hours of interviews by the musician and scholar Michael E. Veal. It spans Allen’s early years and career playing highlife music in Lagos; his 15 years with Fela Kuti, from 1964 until 1979; his struggles to form his own bands in Nigeria; and his emigration to France.

Allen embraced the drum set, rather than African handheld drums, early in his career, when drum kits were relatively rare in Africa. His story conveys a love of his craft along with the specifics of his practice. It also provides firsthand accounts of the creativity in postcolonial African music, and the personal and artistic dynamics in Fela Kuti’s Koola Lobitos and Africa 70, considered two of the greatest bands to ever play African music.

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