Tributes and homages to artists who recently passed away often sound trivial or trite if done by someone who wasn’t directly connected with them. That’s why we always repeat the mantra that we prefer to let the music do the talking and ask fellow musicians, who grew up and/or shared the stage with the late artist to gift us a few words and pick a few songs able to express their memories.
Even if we had the honour to meet and chat with Tony Allen more than once, we still thought that there were only a few people who could thoroughly remember him. It goes without saying that one of them is his long-time friend and stage partner Bukky Leo. The two met in Lagos in the late 1970s and since Fela Kuti’s death in 1997, they came together with Dele Sosimi, Femi & SeunKuti and only a few others, the true torchbearers of afrobeat.
In November, we had the pleasure of enjoying a one-off show, when Tony Allen, Bukky Leo, Dele Sosimi and Femi Elias spread together the afrobeat word on the Electric Brixton stage. We never had the luck to experience how Lagos sounded in the 1970s, but if it was even half the groove of that night in Brixton, we would bend over backwards to have a time machine and go back in time.
This is one of the saddest things I’ve had to do. On the same token it’s incredibly invigorating and justifying to choose these songs. I could have picked 20 songs. The man is a God of Afrobeat. His legacy influenced everybody’s musicality especially that of Fela his one time boss. His funeral happens today, 6th May 2020. He’s simply gone for a rest. His spirit will forever rejoice in righteousness.