Tony Oladipo Allen (born in Lagos, Nigeria) is a Nigerian drummer, composer and songwriter who currently lives and works in Paris. His career and life story have been documented in his 2013 autobiography Tony Allen: Master Drummer of Afrobeat, co-written with author/musician Michael E. Veal who previously wrote a comprehensive biography of Fela Kuti.
As drummer and musical director of Fela Anikulapo Kuti's band Africa 70 from 1968 to 1979, Allen was one of the primary co-founders of the genre of Afrobeat music. Fela once stated that, without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat. He has also been described by Brian Eno as perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived.
A self-taught musician, Allen began to play drum-kit at the age of eighteen, while working as an engineer for a Nigerian radio station. Allen was influenced by music his father listened to (Juju, traditional Yoruba ceremonial music), but also American jazz, and the growing highlife scene in Nigeria and Ghana. Allen worked hard to develop a unique voice on the drums – feverishly studying LPs and magazine articles by Max Roach and Art Blakey, but also revolutionary Ghanaian drummer Guy Warren (now Kofi Ghanaba – who developed a highly sought sound that mixed tribal Ghanaian drumming with bop – working with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Max Roach).
Allen was hired by 'Sir' Victor Olaiya to play claves with his highlife band, the Cool Cats. Tony was able to fill the drum-set chair when the former Cool Cats drummer left the band. Allen later played with Agu Norris and the Heatwaves, the Nigerian Messengers and the Melody Makers.