NIGERIAN AFROBEAT LEGEND TONY ALLEN'S WORLD CIRCUIT/NONESUCH DEBUT
SECRET AGENT TO BE RELEASED JANUARY 12
"At nearly 70 the man Brian Eno reckons is perhaps the greatest drummer that ever lived
is reveling in his heritage, and it's contagious." —Q
Tony Allen — best known
for his work as drummer and musical director for Fela Anikulapo Kuti, one of Africa's most influential
artists — makes his World Circuit/Nonesuch debut with Secret Agent, January 12. Following its
European release earlier this year, Secret Agent has received generous critical praise. The Guardian
proclaimed, "There is no question that Tony Allen is a genius, one of the greatest percussionists in the history of
popular music," while Observer Music Monthly said, "If you're wondering why Afrobeat is hip, start
Together with Fela Kuti, with whom he played for 15 years, Allen co-created Afrobeat — the hard-driving, horns-
rich, funk-infused, politically insurrectionary style that became such a dominant force in African music and is now
one of Africa's most popular styles among international listeners.
Allen produced Secret Agent, which was recorded with his touring band of musicians from Nigeria,
Cameroon, Martinique and France. The music is square in the Afrobeat tradition — rhythmic tenor guitar, funky
keyboards, call and response vocals, and full-throated horns — with a few twists (including keyboard player and
arranger Fixi's accordion on some tracks). Allen's playing meanwhile draws on four different styles — highlife,
soul/funk, jazz and traditional Nigerian drumming. At Afrobeat's heart is the beat, even more prominent now than it
was in Fela Kuti's legendary Afrika '70 band.
Secret Agent is Allen's first release since he became a founding member of The Good, The Bad & The Queen
(alongside Damon Albarn, Paul Simenon and Simon Tong). This association has helped encourage a recent upsurge
of interest in Afrobeat. Over the years Allen has appeared on dozens of albums and his continued relevance in 2009
— fans of hip hop, funk and jazz clamor for his recordings — speaks to the staying power of the Afrobeat music that
he helped create in the 1960s.