Song of the Day: Tony Allen & The Afro Messengers “Love is a Natural Thing”
“Love is a Natural Thing” was recorded in 1979 in Lagos, Nigeria and released later the same year on Shanu Olu Records. Tony Allen (born 1940), the iconic drummer and musical director for Fela Anikulapo Kuti‘s Africa 70 from 1968 to 1979, gives us this rare, sexy gem. Within the poly-rhythmic traditions of the Yoruba of Nigeria, Allen successfully combined elements from other parts of Africa, along with Soul, Funk, Jazz, and Highlife to create a wholly original and truly 4-limbed approach to the drum kit. As one of the primary co-founders of Nigerian Afrobeat music, Allen’s discography runs as deep as the Niger River is long. By 1979, he recorded over 30 albums with Fela alone! He currently resides in Paris and is still very much active at 76 years young.
A primarily self-taught drummer, Allen began playing drum kit at the age of 18. Early in his life, he was influenced by his father’s musical tastes, which included traditional Yoruba music, the popular Highlife music of Nigeria and Ghana and Jazz music from the United States. American Jazz drummers Art Blakey and Max Roach were particularly influential upon Allen, as was Ghanaian drummer Guy Warren (aka Kofi Ghanaba). Warren had developed a highly sought after musical voice on the drum kit by fusing traditional Ghanaian rhythms and Be-Bop. This provided an early example for Allen on how to fuse multiple musical styles into a singular approach to drumming. When he auditioned for Fela Kuti in 1964, Kuti commented, “How come you are the only guy in Nigeria who plays like this–Jazz and Highlife?” After decades of pioneering work within the Afro-Beat genre, Allen went on work with artists around the globe. He has worked across many genres: everything from Hip-Hop to avant-garde electronica hybrids and he’s still going strong. Long live Tony Allen!!!