Posts Tagged ‘tony allen’

Songlines Music Awards 2015: The Winners

Posted on April 29th, 2015 in News, Recent posts by .

We’re delighted to announce the winners of the seventh Songlines Music Awards. Selected from an original pool of over 650 albums to a shortlist of 16, here are the four outstanding albums of the past year


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Tony Allen
For Film of Life on Jazz Village

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To sustain artistic creativity over half a century is a rare achievement and so it was remarkable that Tony Allen should mark the 50th anniversary of his first encounter with Fela Kuti with the release of one of the finest albums of his career. Their 1964 meeting, of course, led to the musical revolution that was Afrobeat, and on 2014’s Film of Life, Allen paid homage to his illustrious past but moved expansively into fresh territory with a thrilling melange of tribal grooves, jazz and funk.

“It’s still Afrobeat but I cannot repeat the same things,” he told Songlines in #104. “I want people to know I’ve not grown stagnant and I’m giving it a new twist.” Key to Allen’s best work as a drummer and bandleader over the years has been his choice of collaborators. On Film of Life they include Damon Albarn, with whom – like Fela Kuti – Allen claims a “telepathic” understanding. “It broadens my knowledge to work with people like that. I’ve got everything to gain by taking up the challenge,” he says. It’s a hell of an attitude at 74 years young.

Nigel Williamson

Read our review of Film of Life


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Toumani & Sidiki Diabaté
For Toumani & Sidiki on World Circuit

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Photo by Youri Lenquette

The African griot tradition of handing ancient musical skills down from father to son was shown to be alive and well on a sparkling collection of kora duets between Toumani Diabaté, the acknowledged poet laureate of the instrument who can trace his ancestry back through 71 generations of hereditary musicians, and the latest branch of the family tree, his 23-year-old son Sidiki. The younger Diabaté has made something of a name for himself in Mali as a hip-hop producer, but he’s also absorbed the ancient oral traditions of the Mande people and developed a fluent, virtuoso style of his own.

Together father and son crafted an album of rich diversity, the kora’s trademark sound given a markedly different nuance of tone and character on almost every track. Changes of rhythm or tempo convey contrasting moods – reflective, energetic, hypnotic, graceful, dynamic – although who is playing what is not easy to discern, so intricately are the strings of father and son interwoven in an exquisite tapestry, every thread perfectly chosen in the pursuit of perfection.

Nigel Williamson

Read our review of Toumani & Sidiki


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Kronos Quartet
For A Thousand Thoughts on Nonesuch

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Photography by Jay Blakesberg

“When I started playing string quartets aged 14,” says David Harrington, the leader of Kronos Quartet, “I remember looking at the globe and thinking that all the quartet music I knew was written by four guys who lived in the same city – Vienna.” Now a young boy might look into the repertoire of Kronos Quartet and think ‘Where haven’t they been?’

Kronos celebrated their 40th anniversary with A Thousand Thoughts. It not only won them this award because it’s so good, but also because it draws on a worldwide diversity of sounds. Guest artists include Asha Bhosle, Zakir Hussain, Wu Man and Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares – an extraordinary line-up of stars – plus music from Vietnam, Ethiopia, Afghanistan and beyond. Looking ahead, they’ve just finished a recording with this issue’s cover star Tanya Tagaq. A few years ago, the New York Times suggested that no one had expanded the idea of the string quartet as much as Kronos since it was ‘created’ by Joseph Haydn (in Vienna of course) in the 1750s. A Thousand Thoughts is the evidence for that.

Simon Broughton

Read our review of A Thousand Thoughts


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Ibibio Sound Machine
For Ibibio Sound Machine on Soundway

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This London-based eight-piece, fronted by British-Nigerian singer Eno Williams, have created the perfect dance storm with their music since the release of their self-titled debut. First started as a project in order to use Williams’ mother’s language – Ibibio from south-east Nigeria – ISM successfully deliver Nigerian folk tales set to some of the funkiest beats this side of disco’s heyday.

The members of ISM provide a solid base of Afrobeat grooves, highlife guitar lines, a funky horn section and electronic dance beats around which Williams’ folktales weave themselves. The album is full of stories, from the cunning tortoise to the proud peacock who struts his stuff.

Williams told Songlines last year, “the way storytelling happens in [Ibibio] culture it is like passing down history and messages, so it feels like that baton has been passed to me and I’m now putting those stories to song.” And this rejuvenation of folktales required a fresh musical approach, which they have perfectly delivered here – storytelling that is sure to get your booty shaking.

Alexandra Petropoulos

Introducing… Ibibio Sound Machine

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Songlines Music Awards 2015 Nominees: Best Artist

Posted on April 8th, 2015 in News, Recent posts by .

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Seven years since their launch, the Songlines Music Awards continue to champion the huge amount of brilliant music from around the world. Here are the four nominees in the Best Artist category, as voted by you.


Tony Allen
For Film of Life on Jazz Village

At 74, the Nigerian drummer who helped Fela Kuti craft his mighty Afrobeat and has been described as the ‘finest drummer on the planet,’ is making some of the best music of his career. His compositions on Film of Life draw on his rich past but are not confined by it, as regular collaborator Damon Albarn joins him and elements of dub, jazz, funk, electronica and much else are seamlessly infiltrated into the mix.


Julie Fowlis
For Gach Sgeul – Every Story on Machair Records

Any fears that the Scottish Gaelic singer had gone ‘pop’ after singing in the 2012 Disney animation film Brave were dispelled by the long-awaited appearance of Gach Sgeul – Every Story, the follow-up to her 2009 album, Uam. With not an English-language hit or celebrity collaboration in sight, Fowlis puts her trust in the riches of traditional Gaelic language folk song – and the results are exquisite.


Seth Lakeman
For Word of Mouth on Cooking Vinyl

It’s now a decade and six albums ago that Lakeman won a Mercury Prize nomination for Kitty Jay. During that time, he’s matured from Brit-folk’s most promising poster boy to become one of its most accomplished performers and insightful songwriters. Recorded in a 15th-century Cornish church, Word of Mouth was inspired by the stories of local characters he interviewed for the project.


Ricardo Ribeiro
For Largo da Memória on Parlophone

One of the most distinctive artists in Portugal’s new wave of fadistas, the 33-year-old Ribeiro’s fourth album combines a sense of pride in unvarnished fado tradition with wider musical influences, including Arabic roots via a collaboration with Lebanese oud player Rabih Abou-Khalil. Singing in a robust voice full of character and emotion, the rapport with his instrumental ensemble is impressively intuitive.

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Live Review | Tony Allen at Village Underground, London, Nov 20

Posted on December 8th, 2014 in Live, News, Recent posts by .

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Words by Valentina Monsurrò

As part of the EFG London Jazz Festival 2014, Afrobeat legend Tony Allen performed with his band at Village Underground in Shoreditch on Thursday November 20. 

The event was sold out and was certainly one of the most awaited and exciting Afrobeat events in London this year. The evening opened with Aziz Sahmaoui & University of Gnawa playing their energetic blend of Moroccan and Senegalese music with jazz and rock influences. The atmosphere warmed up quickly and the venue was completely full by 9pm, when Tony Allen and his band took the stage. Widely known for his career with Fela Kuti and Africa 70, Tony Allen is considered the master drummer of Afrobeat. Since the beginning of his solo career he has been pushing the boundaries of the genre, delving into electronica, dub, R&B and funk.

The band consisted of drums, percussions, guitar, bass, keyboards and horns, and their performance was solid and enthralling; the audience was captivated by the funky grooves of the guitars and the blaring saxophones. Interacting with the other musicians rather than throwing himself into the intricate drum parts, Allen created hypnotic grooves and atmospheres, letting the music do the talking on the stage. The band played longer than expected, stretching from past hits such as ‘No Discrimination’, to more recent tunes from Allen’s latest album Film of Life, such as ‘Tiger Skip’, which opened the gig, ‘Koko Dance’ and ‘Boat Journey’.

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The Songlines Essential 10: Afrobeat Albums

Posted on November 21st, 2014 in Recent posts by .

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Afrobeat is seeing something of a resurgence – with the release of a Fela documentary and new albums from two of the genre’s greats. Max Reinhardt gets into the groove and highlights ten of the best albums.

Click here to stream the full playlist.

Tony Allen – Film of Life (Jazz Village, 2014)
Tony Allen’s unique ‘highlife meets hard bop meets funk’ drum patterns underpinned and inspired Fela’s Afrobeat. This latest album finds Allen still an unstoppable force of rhythmic genius in his mid-70s. To quote my review in this issue: ‘an instantly enticing nu-Afrobeat groove, in which funky horns, squelchy synths, repetitive guitar and even ukulele catch you in a compelling slipstream’.

Antibalas – Antibalas (Daptone, 2012)
One of the finest fruits of Fela’s posthumous Afrobeat realm. From 1998 onwards, baritone saxophonist Martin Perna’s Brooklyn-based Conjunto Antibalas live the music, the sonics, the rhythms and the politics of Afrobeat. This CD is an eruption of tuff, brilliant songs, deliriously powerful playing and potent vocals from Amayo. Reviewed in #87.

The Fontanelles – Horns of Freedom (First Word Records, 2013)
The band that grew out of the onstage musicians for the London run of Fela! The Musical. This debut is an instrumental Afrobeat tour de force with a pile driving jazzy edge, to which they’ve added Caribbean and swinging Addis grooves. Its many highlights include ‘Afrocat’, ‘Pinprick’ and ‘Horns of Freedom’. Reviewed in #98.

Alhaji K Frimpong – Kyenkyen Bi Adi M’awu! (Ofo Brothers, 1976)
This album from Alhaji K Frimpong and his Cubano Fiestas is a mid-70s Ghanaian gem clearly influenced by Afrobeat grooves and rhythms though still very much a late period jazzy highlife album. ‘Kyenkyen Bi Adi M’awu!’ itself remains a dance floor classic.

Orlando Julius & The Heliocentrics – Jaiyede Afro (Strut Records, 2014)
Until Fela’s return from the US in 1970, Orlando Julius and his Afro-funk tunes were the summit of cool for young Lagosians. Then Fela’s Afrobeat, non-stop struggle and legend eclipsed Orlando for decades, but this album is his finest hour. In the company of London’s funky jazztronicists, The Heliocentrics, he creates an Afrobeat sound that you want to climb inside for a week at a time. Reviewed in #103.

Fela Ransome Kuti & Africa 70 – Expensive Shit/He Miss Road (Knitting Factory Records, 2013)
An explosive, musical and lyrical Fela peak, this is the CD reissue of two of his early 70s vinyls. Originally, the scatological, subversive Afrobeat classic Expensive Shit was backed with the haunting metaphysics and beautiful melody of ‘Water Get No Enemy’, while He Miss Road’s three tracks include the portrait of his city ‘Monday Morning Lagos’ and Tony Allen’s polyrhythmic tour de force ‘It’s No Possible’.

Femi Kuti – Shoki Shoki (Barclay, 1998)
This is the fourth album by Fela’s oldest son Femi, who over the last 25 years of non-stop touring has been keeping the flame of Fela’s legacy burning. This is probably his most memorable set of songs, from the sex with a smile on its face of the track ‘Beng Beng Beng’ to the accusatory ‘Sorry Sorry’.

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 – A Long Way to the Beginning (Knitting Factory Records, 2014)
Seun’s angriest, most fiery album to date, leading the band he inherited from his father when just 14 years old. His ever improving voice, even wittier lyrics (‘lMF’) and catchier tunes (ragged highlife wonder ‘Ohun Aiye’), production by Robert Glasper and guest stars like Nneka, M1 and Blitz the Ambassador, make this a heady brew. Reviewed in #100.

Dele Sosimi – Identity (Helico Records, 2007)
Dele really is London’s Afrobeat catalyst. He learned keyboards from Fela himself, played with Egypt 80 for seven years, became their arranger and musical director and then did the same with Femi into the 90s. The complex but compelling arrangements of Identity, its songwriting and funkiest of keyboards, all testify to Dele’s finely honed skills and unstoppable dynamism. Reviewed in #55.

Various Artists – Red Hot + Fela (Knitting Factory Records, 2013)
A razor-sharp fundraising tool for AIDS awareness that also traces the spread of Fela awareness within the international musical community. The first album, Red Hot + Riot (2002), featured producer and activist Andres Levin at the controls and highlighted Fela’s compositional genius in the hands of a huge cast including Nile Rodgers, Baaba Maal, and Macy Gray. This follow-up moves further out and sweeps luminaries like Kronos Quartet, My Morning Jacket and Spoek Mathambo into the fold. Reviewed in #97.

Who did we miss? Write and let us know, letters@songlines.co.uk.

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