| RABAT, Morocco
RABAT, Morocco Legend has it that when Nigerian
drummer Tony Allen quit the band of Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti,
it took four percussionists to replace him.
Brian Eno called Allen, 67, "perhaps the greatest drummer
who has ever lived." Kuti said that "without Tony Allen, there
would be no Afrobeat."
Allen recorded over 30 albums with Kuti and his group,
Africa '70, which fused jazz, funk and African traditional
singing. The songs were usually more than 10 minutes long, and
Kuti's lyrics were often angry diatribes against corrupt
African dictators and Nigeria's military regimes.
Allen, who made an album in 2006 with Damon Albarn of
English rock band Blur, was speaking at Morocco's Mawazine
(World Rhythms) music festival in the capital Rabat.
Q: Is your success due only to talent or did luck also
A: I would say I was born with it. I would say it's in the
blood. My father took up music as a hobby -- when he came home
from work he played to amuse us, my brothers and my friends.
I didn't know I was going to end up playing music. I
studied electronics... I just went in the evening to practice
the drums. I heard a new band was going to be formed and I said
to myself: 'It's now or never'.
Q: Are talented young musicians appearing to replace your
A: There are many young talents coming up now who only need
the exposure. The only problem is that they are running away
from their own thing, their roots. They are stuck into stuff
borrowed from abroad and that's something I really detest.
Q: Is it easy these days to make it as a professional
A: No, no no -- It's harder now, it's too commercial in
this modern age where everyone can manipulate the computer. You
can make music without even being a musician. And with online
piracy you can't sell enough records.
Q: Your home country is still troubled by corruption,
poverty and unemployment. What needs to change in Nigeria?
A: The government. Every time, they put the wrong person in
place. I don't see Nigerians benefiting from all the oil they
have. This government needs to create a social movement. Maybe
it must go to the poor areas, check it out, ask people what are
The people in power say if you are complaining too much it
is because you are poor.
The anger is reflected in the music. But if the music is
too militant, the media won't touch it. So how do you send this
Q: How does it feel when someone calls you the best drummer
in the world?
A: I know I've done my homework properly, but of course it
doesn't get to my head. Call me anything -- I don't give a
shit. I just want to move forward, I've kept on doing what I
wanted to do. I kept on exploring and learning more.
Q: What are your plans for the future -- is it getting
harder to play and to tour?
A: As for my playing, I am in control. My new album is
recording now between Paris and Lagos, I finished recording now
and it's just mixing. It's called "Celebration." Just wait --
it's going to be a surprise.