Tony Allen talks Afrobeat and Fela Kuti

Tony Allen talks Afrobeat and Fela Kuti

In front of a full house of middle and high school students as part of the Project Success organization to inspire kids, the Walker Art Center and the Cedar Cultural Center set the stage for a unique afternoon concert featuring spellbinding legend, drummer Tony Allen. As a fellow drummer and Afrobeat diehard I found myself as just another lucky student watching the man and his group who as far as I'm concerned are the most anticipated gig of the season that's finally happening this Saturday night at the Cedar.

With this preview, a 45-minute set and a short Q&A, the 70-year-old Allen mostly let the music do the talking for the students, who were either wiggling in their seats from the music or were just anxious to get back on their cell phones and mp3 players.

In any case, what was not lost on those present was the richness and spectacular style of Tony Allen's playing and the special occasion the afternoon presented, which gave the band a chance to break in the Cedar stage for Saturday's big show and work out some of their set that bounced around his more recent work.

Once I was able to shake my own nerves I had a chance to talk with Tony about the experience playing in front of the unlikely audience, his beginnings as a student of music himself and of course what he's most known for, his history as chief collaborator of Afrobeat with Fela Kuti.

Tony Allen talks Afrobeat and Fela Kuti

Tony Allen and Band peforming for Project Success students at the Cedar Cultural Center

Tony Allen talks Afrobeat and Fela Kuti

Tony Allen performs Saturday April 23 at the Cedar Cultural Center. 7pm. All Ages welcome. $35 at the door.

Here are some highlights from Tony's long career which started back in 1968 as the drummer for Fela's first band, a more "highlife" oriented band Koola Lobitos that eventually morphed into the Afrobeat rhythm and sounds of Afrika 70. Recording nearly 3 dozen records together the two became famous for the syncopated rhythm style Allen still continues to pioneer in work of his own as well as collaborations with Allenko Brotherhood Ensemble, Damon Albarn's The Good, The Bad and The Queen and saxophonist Jimi Tenor.

Tony Allen "Jealousy"(1975)

Fela Kuti with duelling drummers Tony Allen and Ginger Baker "Ye Ye De Smell"(1978)

Tony Allen and Doctor L "Never Satisfied"(2000)

The Good, The Bad and The Queen "Nature Springs"(2007)

Tony Allen and Jimi Tenor(2009)

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