This article was originally published in Mean Magazine (October 1999), with art direction by Camille Rose Garcia, and an overview of Fela’s catalog by Michael Veal; the main article text, and sidebars, were later reprinted in full in the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 book (thank you Douglas Wolk and Peter Guralnick). Main article text is online here: http://www.arthurmag.com/2009/11/02/fela-king-of-the-invisible-art
by Jay Babcock
Tony Allen is the original funky drummer. As a member of Fela’s ’60s highlife group Koola Lobitos, Allen, Tony traveled with Fela to the U.S., where Fela developed Afrobeat. Allen’s complex, seemingly eight-armed and eight-legged drum parts—an encyclopedia of inventive groove spread over dozens of albums—were the only parts of Fela songs not composed by Fela himself. Allen released an incredible series of solo albums in the late-70s and early ’80s, three of which featured Fela and the Afrika 70.