Tony Allen - Secret Agent (2009)

News in from World Circuit : Fela Kuti said, “Without Tony Allen there would be no Afrobeat”. One of the finest drummers ever releases a new album, Secret Agent on the World Circuit label on 8th June.

Tony Allen has long been acknowledged as Africa’s finest kit drummer and one of the continent’s most influential musicians. His ptaying draws on four different styles — highlife, soul-funk, jazz and traditional Nigerian drumming, a unique and mighty sound. Together with Fela Kuti (with whom ho played for 15 years) Allen co-created Afrobeat the hard driving, horns rich, funk infused, politically isurrectionary in style which became such a dominant force in African musIc and such an influence worldwide.

‘Secret Agent’, a majestic slice of hardcore roots Afrobeat, is Allen’s debut for World Circuit and his first release since he became a founder member of The Good The Bad and The Queen (alongside Damon Albarn. Paul Simenon and Simon Tong). Afrobeat is currentiy enjoying an upsurge of interest and for fans of hip.hop, funk and jazz, Allen, holder of the Afrobeat flame, is today revered as its seminal living figure.

Secret Agent’ produced by Allan himself was recorded with his hard-schooled touring band which comprises players from Nigeria, Cameroon, Martinique and Franca. The music is lourequare in the Afrobeat tradition - naggIng tenor guitar, funl~ keyboards, souifui cail and response vocals, and fat, full throatS, hard rifling horns - with a few twists (delicIously including keyboard player and arranger Fixi’s accordion on some tracks). And at its head, of course, is the boat itself, even more prominent now than it was in Fela Kuti’s legendary band Afrika 10. Allen drives the music on, straight as an arrow, in a loose-limbed ragged shuffle, fusing the cross rhythms into one irresistible forward motion.

The vocals are handled by the Lagos based Nigerian singers Ayo, King Odudu, Switch, Kefeo Obareki and Wura Samba Afrobeat disciples all!! says Allen. Allen himself takes lead vocals on ‘Secret Agenf’ and ~Elewon po”

The songs on Secret Agent stay true to Afrobeat’s original, trademark embrace of protest lyrics. ‘Pariwo’ (shout, make some noise) and ‘Elewon Po’ (too many prisoners) urge resistance to oppression. Others, like ‘Nina Iowa’ (money is to be spent} and ‘Attawaba’ (no matter if things are bad, they’ll get better), are based on traditional folk proverbs. Some are Irresistible exhortations to party ‘Ijo’ (dance) and ‘Alutere’ (the message the drums transmit) celebrate Afrobeat in general and Allen’s genius in particular. “Fela had a different way of writing”, says Allen. “He wrote like a singer. I write like a drummer”.

Secret Agent comes from the deep, molten core of Afrobeat - “the rhythm of gold, the rhythm of class, the rhythmn of pleasure full of history of our world,” as Aye sings on ‘Ijo’. Kuti, without a doubt, would have loved it.

Secret Agent is released on World Circuit on 8th June 09.

” Without Tony Allen, there’d be no Afrobeat”. Fela ‘Anikulapo’ Kuti

“Tony Allen really got me dancin.” Blur (from the single ‘Music is my Radar’)

“Perhaps the greatest drummer ever” Brian Eno


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