Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen dies aged 79

FILE PHOTO: Nigerian singer Tony Allen performs at the Mawazine Festival in Rabat, May 17, 2008. REUTERS/Rafael Marchante/File Photo

LAGOS (Reuters) - Nigerian drummer and composer Tony Allen, who worked closely with musician Fela Kuti as a pioneer of the Afrobeat genre, died in Paris aged 79, his manager said.

The Afrobeat sound, which rose to prominence in Nigeria in the 1970s, combined organ riffs with West African drum patterns and brass instruments. Allen’s drumming was a key part of the rhythmic structure that underpinned the fusion of jazz, funk and West African melodies.

Allen died on Wednesday evening in Paris of a heart attack, National Public Radio (NPR) cited his manager Eric Trosset as saying on Thursday.

“Farewell Tony! Your eyes saw what most couldn’t see. You are the coolest person on Earth! As you used to say, “There is no end,” Trosset said in a tribute posted on Facebook.

Allen recorded more than 30 albums with Kuti and his group, Africa ‘70, which fused jazz, funk and African traditional singing.

The songs were usually over 10 minutes long and Kuti’s lyrics were often angry diatribes against corruption, African dictators and Nigeria’s military regimes.

Kuti, who died in 1997, once said that “without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat”.

In later years Allen worked with a broad range of artists including musician Brian Eno who referred to Allen “perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived”.

Reuters could not immediately reach Allen’s manager for comment.

Reporting by Alexis Akwagyiram in Lagos and Bate Felix in Paris; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky