Remembering Afrobeat Drummer Tony Allen: Spotify Playlist


Legendary Nigerian drummer Tony Allen died last week at the age of 79. Allen’s close association with fellow Nigerian musician Fela Kuti forged the foundation of afrobeat music. This edition of Saturday Stream presents a career-spanning Spotify Playlist featuring Allen’s instantly recognizable playing with Kuti’s band Africa 70 and beyond.

Effectively a co-bandleader alongside Kuti, Allen rose to become among the most influential drummers of all time. Afrobeat eventually spread around the globe and Allen became synonymous with the genre’s rhythmic core and infectious, groove inducing beats. Between their meeting in 1964 and Allen’s decision to leave Kuti’s band in 1979, the pair collaborated on over 30 albums. Allen also released solo albums during that time, establishing himself as a capable bandleader in his own right.

“Fela was like a brother to me,” Allen stated. “He was a true genius and I worked with him for 15 years because I believed in him so much.”


Later years saw Allen working with a wide variety of musicians from across genres, styles, nationalities and generations. Allen contributed to records by Charlotte Gainsbourg, Air, Grace Jones, Zap Mama, Snoop Dogg, Chicago Afrobeat Project, Jimi Tenor, Angelique Kidjo and several others, including the late Hugh Masekela whose posthumous collaborative album with Allen came out earlier this year.

Allen also co-founded the supergroup The Good, The Bad, The Queen with multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Damon Albarn of Gorillaz, bassist Paul Simonon of The Clash and guitarist Simon Tong of The Verve. They released a self-titled debut album in 2007 and followed with 2018’s Merrie Land. Allen, Albarn, and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea formed Rocket Juice & The Moon and released a sole, self-titled album in 2012.

The playlist below features a chronological review of Tony Allen’s storied career playing drums with Fela Kuti and many of the other musicians he performed alongside, beginning with the pre-Africa 70 highlife group Koola Lobitos through the Rejoice record featuring Masekela. Stream it here: