Tony Allen

Given the length of time between releases in Gorillaz new Song Machine series, many fans were quite surprised that a new track called “How Far?” was released on YouTube yesterday. That is, of course, until the news dropped just a few hours later that legendary drummer and creator of afrobeat drum style Tony Allen had passed away on Thursday, April 30. His passing seems to have inspired Damon Albarn and his Gorillaz crew to release “How Far,” a track that features Allen on his iconic drums along with Rapper Skepta, in honor of the fallen percussion innovator.

Tagged by many as the best drummer in the world, the Nigerian-born Tony Allen was best known for developing the five famous and very complex afrobeat drum patterns in the 60s and 70s. These patterns continue influence almost every genre of music right through to today and with the current prevalence of making patterns on drum machines, Allen was quoted as saying his mission is to “…take care of the youngsters – they have messages and I want to bring them on my beat.”

This is the quote that appeared on the Gorillaz Instagram page when they announced the new track, yet many music fans didn’t find out about Allen’s demise until they read the comments on the track. Allen certainly did bring Damon Albarn and company “on his beat,” as “How Far” more than features him on the track. Allen’s drum stylings pretty much are the track.

“How Far” is very drum-forward, featuring a slow, heavy and very afrobeat drumline that, rather than changing to accommodate the other elements in the track, it seems as though the synth melodies and Skepta’s verses change in response to Allen’s changing beats. The composition of the track is dependent on the drum first and everything else follows. It’s clear that the track wasn’t meant to be a tribute to Tony Allen in this way but it certainly makes a very fitting one and Gorillaz were right to make the call the release “How Far” early.

Since it was a bit of a rush job, the usual Song Machine video and animation didn’t accompany “How Far,” Jamie Hewlett and his animation team nevertheless came up with a gorgeous image to pay homage to the father of afrobeat. A big color photo of Allen takes up most of the space in the picture with Murdoc, Russel, Noodle and 2D looking up at him, presumably as his students. Each of them has a little speech bubble, with Russel’s of course being emojis of drums.

The picture is a beautiful visual sendoff to go with one of the last tracks that Allen did. It’s pretty clear Albarn, Hewlett and crew want to make sure Tony Allen’s amazing wisdom and talent are just as much a part of his legacy as his legendary afrobeat drums.

Click the player below to hear “How Far” featuring Tony Allen and Skepta by Gorillaz.

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

>

Sign in and listen to our IMP Spotify Playlist

Music Music News

Leave a Comment