Tuesday Reviewsday: Danay Suarez, Saul Hernandez, Daniel Lanois and more - KPCC Take Two
"Femi and Seun Kuti, the eldest and youngest sons of late Nigerian Afrobeat king Fela Kuti, are generally seen as heirs to their father’s crown. Nothing against them — they’ve both been making fine music and putting their stamps on the funky, fiery sounds. But with his new album, "Film of Life," drummer Tony Allen makes a strong case that the title is his.
Of course, given that he’s 74, it’s hard to tag him as an inheritor of anything. Having been at Fela’s side both before and during the revolution that was Afrobeat in the ‘60s and ‘70s, having been one of the key figures in that revolution, Allen today stands at the top of the form’s royal family.
It’s not because Allen’s music sounds like Fela’s. It’s because so much of it does not. That’s the truest realization of his boss/collaborator’s spirit. Fela had no interest in staying put and recreating the past — nor does Allen. Sure, there are some familiar elements — the blaring ensemble horns on some tracks, the steely delivery of his vocals, the burbling funk. And behind it all Allen’s solid-as-Gibraltar pulse that has earned him the nickname the Human Metronome, a completely inadequate moniker that overlooks the colorful complexities of his rhythms and sells short the role he played as the true backbone of Fela’s music…
"Film of Life" encompasses all of that with a vibrancy all its own. Produced by French trio the Jazzbastards, the album sparkles and crackles with unexpected combinations of styles and sounds at every turn. Opener “Moving On” starts at the core: Allen’s mix of interlocking rhythms establishes a foundation to support ultra-funky horns. Next, “Boat Journey” builds with a skittering guitar line and such cinematic touches as dramatic timpani, as Allen speak-singing a cautionary tale warning those “running away from misery” will confront themselves and find “double misery.”
“Tiger’s Skip,” co-written by Albarn and featuring him on melodica, has some of the dub atmosphere the British artist has used with Gorillaz. “Ewa” is almost a jazzy ‘70s film soundtrack, an intricate construction spiked by Vincent Taeger’s vibes. “Go Back” features Albarn on vocals in an introspective soul turn. “Ire Omo” brings in female singers Adunni and Nefretiti for a classic Afrobeat sound.
Each song reveals something new, something unexpected. Each listen shows more layers and depth. Tony Allen could easily get by on his past achievements, but with this album he reaches new peaks — his “Film of Life” still being made.”
Film of Life is out now! Amazon: http://ow.ly/D89tq iTunes: http://ow.ly/D89xF

Tuesday Reviewsday: Danay Suarez, Saul Hernandez, Daniel Lanois and more - KPCC Take Two

"Femi and Seun Kuti, the eldest and youngest sons of late Nigerian Afrobeat king Fela Kuti, are generally seen as heirs to their father’s crown. Nothing against them — they’ve both been making fine music and putting their stamps on the funky, fiery sounds. But with his new album, "Film of Life," drummer Tony Allen makes a strong case that the title is his.

Of course, given that he’s 74, it’s hard to tag him as an inheritor of anything. Having been at Fela’s side both before and during the revolution that was Afrobeat in the ‘60s and ‘70s, having been one of the key figures in that revolution, Allen today stands at the top of the form’s royal family.

It’s not because Allen’s music sounds like Fela’s. It’s because so much of it does not. That’s the truest realization of his boss/collaborator’s spirit. Fela had no interest in staying put and recreating the past — nor does Allen. Sure, there are some familiar elements — the blaring ensemble horns on some tracks, the steely delivery of his vocals, the burbling funk. And behind it all Allen’s solid-as-Gibraltar pulse that has earned him the nickname the Human Metronome, a completely inadequate moniker that overlooks the colorful complexities of his rhythms and sells short the role he played as the true backbone of Fela’s music…

"Film of Life" encompasses all of that with a vibrancy all its own. Produced by French trio the Jazzbastards, the album sparkles and crackles with unexpected combinations of styles and sounds at every turn. Opener “Moving On” starts at the core: Allen’s mix of interlocking rhythms establishes a foundation to support ultra-funky horns. Next, “Boat Journey” builds with a skittering guitar line and such cinematic touches as dramatic timpani, as Allen speak-singing a cautionary tale warning those “running away from misery” will confront themselves and find “double misery.”

“Tiger’s Skip,” co-written by Albarn and featuring him on melodica, has some of the dub atmosphere the British artist has used with Gorillaz. “Ewa” is almost a jazzy ‘70s film soundtrack, an intricate construction spiked by Vincent Taeger’s vibes. “Go Back” features Albarn on vocals in an introspective soul turn. “Ire Omo” brings in female singers Adunni and Nefretiti for a classic Afrobeat sound.

Each song reveals something new, something unexpected. Each listen shows more layers and depth. Tony Allen could easily get by on his past achievements, but with this album he reaches new peaks — his “Film of Life” still being made.”

Film of Life is out now! Amazon: http://ow.ly/D89tq iTunes: http://ow.ly/D89xF

(via Tony Allen: Film of Life CD review – cool, contemporary sounds from the master drummer | 4 STARS | The Guardian)
"When you are rightly praised as the greatest drummer Africa has produced, and helped to create Afrobeat along with Fela Kuti, then there’s no need for indulgent solos. At 74, Tony Allen has released his 10th album, a cool, contemporary set dominated, of course, by relaxed, subtle and insistent percussion. His laid-back voice dominates the first two tracks here: the glorious light and slinky Moving On, and Boat Journey, a warning about the dangers facing illegal migrants. This theme is repeated in Go Back, one of two tracks he co-wrote with Damon Albarn, who provides lead vocals and keyboards on a powerful, drifting ballad. Elsewhere, there’s a bluesy song from the US-based Nigerian singer Kuku, and rousing, brass-backed funk from the Nigerian female vocal group Adunni and Nefertiti, driven on by a master-drummer still in glorious form."

(via Tony Allen: Film of Life CD review – cool, contemporary sounds from the master drummer | 4 STARS | The Guardian)

"When you are rightly praised as the greatest drummer Africa has produced, and helped to create Afrobeat along with Fela Kuti, then there’s no need for indulgent solos. At 74, Tony Allen has released his 10th album, a cool, contemporary set dominated, of course, by relaxed, subtle and insistent percussion. His laid-back voice dominates the first two tracks here: the glorious light and slinky Moving On, and Boat Journey, a warning about the dangers facing illegal migrants. This theme is repeated in Go Back, one of two tracks he co-wrote with Damon Albarn, who provides lead vocals and keyboards on a powerful, drifting ballad. Elsewhere, there’s a bluesy song from the US-based Nigerian singer Kuku, and rousing, brass-backed funk from the Nigerian female vocal group Adunni and Nefertiti, driven on by a master-drummer still in glorious form."

(via Tony Allen returns with Film of Life » Something You Said Something You Said)
"…“Film of life” is Allen’s tenth album and features a cast of world class musicians including Albarn who plays Melodica on “Tiger Skip” and co-wrote and performed “Go Back”. The album brings together bebop, afrobeat jazz and psychedelic pop. Allen entrusted the production to a trio of young French musicians known as The Jazzbastard having heard their work with Malian rapper Oxmo Puccino and Canadian-Haitian singer Melissa Laveaux. The result is a stunning long-lasting album with a rich, varied, Technicolor soundscape. On the opener “Moving On” Allen recalls each of his previous albums depicting his spirit of endurance and powers of reinvention. Elsewhere on “The Boat Journey” and “Go Back”, Allen explores themes of exile and displacement whilst “Ire Omo”, “Koko Dance” and “Insider” pay homage to Africa and its rich cultural and spiritual heritage.
The album is a great addition to an already amazing career and it is impressive that even after all these years Allen is still innovating and not simply sitting back on his laurels.”

(via Tony Allen returns with Film of Life » Something You Said Something You Said)

"…“Film of life” is Allen’s tenth album and features a cast of world class musicians including Albarn who plays Melodica on “Tiger Skip” and co-wrote and performed “Go Back”. The album brings together bebop, afrobeat jazz and psychedelic pop. Allen entrusted the production to a trio of young French musicians known as The Jazzbastard having heard their work with Malian rapper Oxmo Puccino and Canadian-Haitian singer Melissa Laveaux. The result is a stunning long-lasting album with a rich, varied, Technicolor soundscape. On the opener “Moving On” Allen recalls each of his previous albums depicting his spirit of endurance and powers of reinvention. Elsewhere on “The Boat Journey” and “Go Back”, Allen explores themes of exile and displacement whilst “Ire Omo”, “Koko Dance” and “Insider” pay homage to Africa and its rich cultural and spiritual heritage.

The album is a great addition to an already amazing career and it is impressive that even after all these years Allen is still innovating and not simply sitting back on his laurels.”

(via Film of Life by Tony Allen | Album Review | The Line Of Best Fit)
"…As Fela Kuti’s drummer and bandleader of the legendary Africa 70 orchestra, Allen was essential to the creation of Afrobeat. Following the huge success of Fela! the musical, this superhumanly funky stew of polyrhythmic hypnosis that infused the hypnotic repetition of prime James Brown with limber High Life grooves, traditional Nigerian rhythms and the improvisation-friendly looseness of Jazz is nearer to the mainstream than ever before. As recent documentary Finding Fela attests (Allen features prominently), Fela was hardly the epitome of humility, but even he acknowledged just how crucial Allen’s impossibly dexterous beats were in the creation of Kuti’s most celebrated works….
Stylistically, there might not be all that much linking (mostly) instrumentals such as the fantastically frantic “Ewa” - gaze in awe at how Allen’s loose yet metronome-tight fills fit seamlessly with the central riff - and “Koko Dance“‘s updating of High Life’s calls to the floor to, say, the melancholy drift of the sublime “Go Back” (with Allen’s The Good, The Bad & The Queen and Rocket Juice and The Moon bandmate Albarn on vocals and co-writing duties). However, Allen’s superlative drumming, utterly undimmed by the passing years, is idiosyncratic enough to tie all the disparate elements, guest vocalists and stylistic shifts into a seamless bunch: you’ll know whose albums it is as soon as the beat kicks in, and the drum kit is rarely silent.
Not that Film of Life is about showcasing Allen’s obvious virtuosity. Allen doesn’t indulge in anything as obviously showing-off as drum solos. Then again, he doesn’t really have to: the rhythms propelling these tracks are multilayered to the point where you’d swear each limb was working to a different time signature; a master-class display in unimaginable skill employed in the service of a greater good: the groove. Add this to a uniformly strong set of tunes and it’s clear that at 74, Allen has created one of his defining statements.”

(via Film of Life by Tony Allen | Album Review | The Line Of Best Fit)

"…As Fela Kuti’s drummer and bandleader of the legendary Africa 70 orchestra, Allen was essential to the creation of Afrobeat. Following the huge success of Fela! the musical, this superhumanly funky stew of polyrhythmic hypnosis that infused the hypnotic repetition of prime James Brown with limber High Life grooves, traditional Nigerian rhythms and the improvisation-friendly looseness of Jazz is nearer to the mainstream than ever before. As recent documentary Finding Fela attests (Allen features prominently), Fela was hardly the epitome of humility, but even he acknowledged just how crucial Allen’s impossibly dexterous beats were in the creation of Kuti’s most celebrated works….

Stylistically, there might not be all that much linking (mostly) instrumentals such as the fantastically frantic “Ewa” - gaze in awe at how Allen’s loose yet metronome-tight fills fit seamlessly with the central riff - and “Koko Dance“‘s updating of High Life’s calls to the floor to, say, the melancholy drift of the sublime “Go Back” (with Allen’s The Good, The Bad & The Queen and Rocket Juice and The Moon bandmate Albarn on vocals and co-writing duties). However, Allen’s superlative drumming, utterly undimmed by the passing years, is idiosyncratic enough to tie all the disparate elements, guest vocalists and stylistic shifts into a seamless bunch: you’ll know whose albums it is as soon as the beat kicks in, and the drum kit is rarely silent.

Not that Film of Life is about showcasing Allen’s obvious virtuosity. Allen doesn’t indulge in anything as obviously showing-off as drum solos. Then again, he doesn’t really have to: the rhythms propelling these tracks are multilayered to the point where you’d swear each limb was working to a different time signature; a master-class display in unimaginable skill employed in the service of a greater good: the groove. Add this to a uniformly strong set of tunes and it’s clear that at 74, Allen has created one of his defining statements.”

(via Okayafrica TV: Tony Allen And The Genesis of Afrobeat | Okayafrica. Okayafrica.)

"Today we honor the afrobeat creator, on what would have been his 76th birthday, with Felabrations around the world. Yesterday Fela‘s afrobeat co-founder and longtime drummer, Tony Allen, celebrated the release of his tenth studio album. Film Of Life, produced by French trio The Jazzbastards and featuring appearances from Damon Albarn, Nigerian singer Kuku and Nigerian all-female folk singing group Adunni & Nefertiti, is a ten-track self portrait of the Nigerian percussion pioneer through incursions into bebop, psychedelic pop and, of course, afrobeat. Allen, who has been touring in support of his new album, was recently in New York City, where he hit the studio to lay down his parts for a new project with Antibalas drummer and EMEFE bandleader Miles Arntzen. Okayafrica TV caught up with Allen at Brooklyn’s Daptone Studios to discuss his start in music, Fela Kuti and the beginning of afrobeat, and the influence of James Brown on the continent. Watch the latest episode of OKATV below. Tony Allen’s Film Of Life is out now [in the US] via Jazz Village." okayafrica

Tinariwen returns Oct 18 to tour the US! Coming to a town near you: http://ow.ly/CLlH3 Imidiwan: Companions is available now on World Village: http://ow.ly/CLm7u  http://ow.ly/CLmgo 

Tinariwen returns Oct 18 to tour the US! Coming to a town near you: http://ow.ly/CLlH3 

Imidiwan: Companions is available now on World Village: http://ow.ly/CLm7u  http://ow.ly/CLmgo 

(via Film of Life - Tony Allen | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic)
"…Film of Life was recorded in France with the Jazzbastards playing and producing, and a slew of guests contributing to its musical mix. It can be heard both as a portrait of Allen’s career as Afrobeat’s bannerman rhythmnatist or — perhaps more accurately — the soundtrack to his own musical innovation and evolution through it. Either way it’s a stone killer. The opener "Moving On" is funky Afrobeat, complete with slippery, percussive guitar vamps, fat brassy horns, a trance-like bassline, and Allen’s signature, hi-hat/tom-tom combination, sparked by his skittering circular snare. His vocal — backed by Audrey Gbaguidi in choral response style — tells his story through his album titles. This would be a gimmick from a lesser musician, but for Allen it’s a volley of truth, pure and simple. Damon Albarn (his bandmate in the aforementioned units) is lead vocalist on the set’s first single, the break-heavy "Go Back." The tune stretches the musical and textural boundaries of modern pop and retro-Philly soul as they encounter African rhythms. Ludovic Bruni’s tightly wound bassline interacts with Allen’s cracking kit in lockstep grooves. The meld of Afro-funk and Far Eastern pop use B-movie tropes. Wah-wah guitars, fuzzed-out basslines, and a cheesy synth melody submit to Allen’s crisp drumming in the role of storyteller, altering their shape and nuance. "Koko Dance" moves in another direction. Blaxploitation’s extreme funkiness is filtered through spaghetti western guitars and the organ-driven vamps of Afrobeat. Taken together, these tunes subvert the trappings of their predecessors and make ’70s Hollywood a racist caricature of itself. American-born Nigerian singer Kuku makes one of two exceptional vocal appearances here (the second is on the brilliant closer "Tony Wood"). As the horns punctuate the choruses, the use of Auto-Tune and dubwise reverb twists everything into perverse, snaky directions. "Ire Omo," with fierce vocals by female vocal ensemble Adunni & Nefertiti, refracts Afrobeat through the source of its original inspiration: James Brown. Its cutting horn lines, wonky clavinet, and Allen’s kinetic kitwork make this jammer irresistible. The ticking hi-hat on "African Mind" introduces the set’s most ferocious track. The spirited dialogues between horns, guitars, fractious bass, vibraphone, hard snap breaks, and circular rhythms goes completely over the top. Fans may not have realized it, but Film of Life provides us with what we’ve missed sorely: Allen as Allen. With the Jazzbastards’ aid, the master drummer has used his entire musical history to create a sound that is vital, urgent, powerful, and sexy as hell."

(via Film of Life - Tony Allen | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards | AllMusic)

"…Film of Life was recorded in France with the Jazzbastards playing and producing, and a slew of guests contributing to its musical mix. It can be heard both as a portrait of Allen’s career as Afrobeat’s bannerman rhythmnatist or — perhaps more accurately — the soundtrack to his own musical innovation and evolution through it. Either way it’s a stone killer. The opener "Moving On" is funky Afrobeat, complete with slippery, percussive guitar vamps, fat brassy horns, a trance-like bassline, and Allen’s signature, hi-hat/tom-tom combination, sparked by his skittering circular snare. His vocal — backed by Audrey Gbaguidi in choral response style — tells his story through his album titles. This would be a gimmick from a lesser musician, but for Allen it’s a volley of truth, pure and simple. Damon Albarn (his bandmate in the aforementioned units) is lead vocalist on the set’s first single, the break-heavy "Go Back." The tune stretches the musical and textural boundaries of modern pop and retro-Philly soul as they encounter African rhythms. Ludovic Bruni’s tightly wound bassline interacts with Allen’s cracking kit in lockstep grooves. The meld of Afro-funk and Far Eastern pop use B-movie tropes. Wah-wah guitars, fuzzed-out basslines, and a cheesy synth melody submit to Allen’s crisp drumming in the role of storyteller, altering their shape and nuance. "Koko Dance" moves in another direction. Blaxploitation’s extreme funkiness is filtered through spaghetti western guitars and the organ-driven vamps of Afrobeat. Taken together, these tunes subvert the trappings of their predecessors and make ’70s Hollywood a racist caricature of itself. American-born Nigerian singer Kuku makes one of two exceptional vocal appearances here (the second is on the brilliant closer "Tony Wood"). As the horns punctuate the choruses, the use of Auto-Tune and dubwise reverb twists everything into perverse, snaky directions. "Ire Omo," with fierce vocals by female vocal ensemble Adunni & Nefertiti, refracts Afrobeat through the source of its original inspiration: James Brown. Its cutting horn lines, wonky clavinet, and Allen’s kinetic kitwork make this jammer irresistible. The ticking hi-hat on "African Mind" introduces the set’s most ferocious track. The spirited dialogues between horns, guitars, fractious bass, vibraphone, hard snap breaks, and circular rhythms goes completely over the top. Fans may not have realized it, but Film of Life provides us with what we’ve missed sorely: Allen as Allen. With the Jazzbastards’ aid, the master drummer has used his entire musical history to create a sound that is vital, urgent, powerful, and sexy as hell."

(via Tony Allen: Fela Kuti, Damon Albarn and me | Music | The Guardian)
"He was the drummer for Fela Kuti throughout the master’s groundbreaking years and has helped shape Afrobeat ever since. Ahead of his new album, Film of Life, Tony Allen chooses five top moments from his 55-year career
Fela Kuti and the Africa 70: Question Jam Answer (1972)
Question Jam Answer was the beginning of Africa 70 finding very strong form. The personnel was changing a lot at that time, but this was a great lineup [including Ayo Azenanbor on bass and trumpet from Tony Njoku]. Fela was writing a lot of good songs at that time, and that’s why it’s difficult for me to say that I like this one more than the other. But Question Jam Answer stands out because of the composition, the way Fela wrote it, and my own drumming – which isn’t a common or a familiar drumming pattern – is something different. The approach that Fela brought when he wrote it was all about letting the music talk, and every time he wrote it was like a challenge to me and I like to face that type of challenge. I’m happy when I rise to it and people hear something and think: “Wow! That’s different.” When Fela wrote Question Jam Answer, some of his friends confronted him about the drumming and said: “Fela, what if this Allenko came to you tomorrow and said he was going to leave unless you gave him more money? You would have to do it because his drumming is too difficult to copy.” Nobody is going to take my place…”
Get Film of Life today on Amazon:  http://ow.ly/CKpsq On iTunes on Oct 20: http://ow.ly/CKtX1 

(via Tony Allen: Fela Kuti, Damon Albarn and me | Music | The Guardian)

"He was the drummer for Fela Kuti throughout the master’s groundbreaking years and has helped shape Afrobeat ever since. Ahead of his new album, Film of Life, Tony Allen chooses five top moments from his 55-year career

Fela Kuti and the Africa 70: Question Jam Answer (1972)

Question Jam Answer was the beginning of Africa 70 finding very strong form. The personnel was changing a lot at that time, but this was a great lineup [including Ayo Azenanbor on bass and trumpet from Tony Njoku]. Fela was writing a lot of good songs at that time, and that’s why it’s difficult for me to say that I like this one more than the other. But Question Jam Answer stands out because of the composition, the way Fela wrote it, and my own drumming – which isn’t a common or a familiar drumming pattern – is something different. The approach that Fela brought when he wrote it was all about letting the music talk, and every time he wrote it was like a challenge to me and I like to face that type of challenge. I’m happy when I rise to it and people hear something and think: “Wow! That’s different.” When Fela wrote Question Jam Answer, some of his friends confronted him about the drumming and said: “Fela, what if this Allenko came to you tomorrow and said he was going to leave unless you gave him more money? You would have to do it because his drumming is too difficult to copy.” Nobody is going to take my place…”

Get Film of Life today on Amazon:  http://ow.ly/CKpsq On iTunes on Oct 20: http://ow.ly/CKtX1 

Tony Allen's Film of Life is out today!! http://ow.ly/CKpsq He’s featured on the cover of Songlines! "he curates a thrilling mélange of tribal grooves, jazz and funk that pays homage to his rich musical past but at the same time expands Afrobeat far beyond the parameters he defined with Fela Kuti all those years ago… Albarn contributes to two of the most arresting tracks, ‘Tiger Skip’, a clattering instrumental collision of melodica, dubby effects and complex, supple rhythmic patterns, and ‘Go Back’, a characteristically plaintive Damon Albarn-sung ballad about exile, which Allen drives with jazzy precision.”

Tony Allen's Film of Life is out today!! http://ow.ly/CKpsq He’s featured on the cover of Songlines

"he curates a thrilling mélange of tribal grooves, jazz and funk that pays homage to his rich musical past but at the same time expands Afrobeat far beyond the parameters he defined with Fela Kuti all those years ago… Albarn contributes to two of the most arresting tracks, ‘Tiger Skip’, a clattering instrumental collision of melodica, dubby effects and complex, supple rhythmic patterns, and ‘Go Back’, a characteristically plaintive Damon Albarn-sung ballad about exile, which Allen drives with jazzy precision.”

(via Listen: Tony Allen - “Boat Journey” [Premiere] - Song of The Day | The Line Of Best Fit)
"As a world renowned afrobeat pioneer and percussionist for Fela Kuti’s famed Africa 70 band, Tony Allen has become nothing short of legendary.
He’s still churning out sounds too. Ahead of new record Film Of Life, Allen has given us the chance to premiere “Boat Journey”, a roving jazz-flecked opus. Descending basslines infect the cut until it’s riddled with gorgeous earthy tones. Rock guitars squirm, the odd Far Eastern twang seeping in and a jarring electronics all converge on a post-afrobeat belter. It’s bleached by scorching morning sun, but the track is still imbued with a chilling core.”

(via Listen: Tony Allen - “Boat Journey” [Premiere] - Song of The Day | The Line Of Best Fit)

"As a world renowned afrobeat pioneer and percussionist for Fela Kuti’s famed Africa 70 band, Tony Allen has become nothing short of legendary.

He’s still churning out sounds too. Ahead of new record Film Of Life, Allen has given us the chance to premiere “Boat Journey”, a roving jazz-flecked opus. Descending basslines infect the cut until it’s riddled with gorgeous earthy tones. Rock guitars squirm, the odd Far Eastern twang seeping in and a jarring electronics all converge on a post-afrobeat belter. It’s bleached by scorching morning sun, but the track is still imbued with a chilling core.”