There Is No End: Tony Allen’s Final Drumroll Is a Message For the Next Generation

There Is No End is the album Tony Allen was working on before passing away at the age of 79. His fellow collaborators finished the recording and posthumously released the album on April 30, 2021. It’s the afrobeat pioneer’s final drumroll, one in which he created a platform for the next generation of rap and hip-hop.

Tony Allen’s beats on the drum are the foundation for There Is No End. It is the message he left behind. Allen spoke about his aspiration of working with young and rising musicians. He intended to share his rich knowledge and experience while promoting new talent. However, the drummer did not live to collaborate with this next generation. Tony Allen passed away on April 30, 2020, but the project was kept alive.

“I want to take care of youngsters; they have messages and I want to bring them on my beat. The idea is to transmit to the young generation, to mix different universes: the hip-hop world to the Afrobeat world.”

Tony Allen

His advanced and accomplished drum skills got recorded and sampled into tracks by producer Vincent Taeger, who also arranged and released the album. As intended by Tony Allen, various musical artists such as Zambian-born rapper Sampa The Great or the Nairobian singer Nah Eeto, recorded vocals over Allen’s beats. The result is a hip-hop album with a clear afrobeat presence.

Nigerian poet Ben Okri said, “This man could have lived another 150 years and kept creating new worlds … he wanted the album to be open to the energies of a new generation.” If Allen would have lived another 150 years, there is no doubt he would go on and inspire others. There Is No End, but also his previous albums Rejoice and The Source, are a demonstration of Allen’s remarkable musical understanding and, at the same time, give a tantalizing peek into his future as a musician.

Tony Allen ft. Sampa The Great – Stumbling Down

More on Tony Allen:

Tony Allen’s The Source – Afrobeat or Jazz?

Tony Allen’s 2017 mini-album release A Tribute To Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers was a unique opportunity to marry his afrobeat rhythms with Art Blakey’s hard bop influences. It also served as a forerunner for his full-length Blue Note debut The Source in which he further explores the relationship between African music and western jazz.

The long-time Fela Kuti drummer found inspiration in Art Blakey’s work. Fusing his afrobeat past with jazz gave him a chance to document his interpretations as a self-thought drummer. In The Source, Tony Allen continues to return to his jazz roots. This time, he explores a wider web of jazz influences. The album includes eleven tracks composed and arranged by Tony Allen and saxophonist Yann Jankielewicz.

“Tony has never played drums as well as this. He’s never had as much freedom, never had as much power as he does today.”

Yann Jankielewicz

Can we consider The Source a jazz album? The record company Blue Note is a landmark for jazz music. But they did not exclusively focus on jazz. They have a rich catalog of African music, often involving afrobeat or percussion rhythms. The album by Solomon Ilori titled African High Life is one example (Blue Note, 1963). Another is Art Blakey’s collaboration with The Afro-Drum Ensemble called The African Beat (Blue Note, 1962).

The Source can be seen as a crossover between Allen’s influential afrobeat past and his interpretation of jazz. Tony Allen recorded jazz-influenced albums on occasion. Apart from his tribute to Art Blakey and The Source, he also recorded the album Rejoice together with Hugh Masekela in 2010 (released in 2020). Blue Note Records also posthumous released the album There Is No End in April 2021. The album intends to be a platform for a new generation of rappers. Tony Allen passed away in 2020 and, although he proved his skills as a drummer, composer, and arranger, he didn’t have a chance to fully unfold his music repertoire with Blue Note Records.

Inner sleeve The Source on vinyl (Blue Note – 5768336)

Tony Allen’s Tribute To Art Blakey

Afrobeat legend and drummer, Tony Allen, was strongly influenced by the recordings of Art Blakey. For his first release on Blue Note Records, he pays a tribute to one of the greatest hard bop drummers in jazz history by blending hard bop with the afrobeat rhythmic subtlety. The recordings got released in May 2017. That year, Tony Allen continued returning to his jazz roots and, a couple of months later, he released his first full-length album on Blue Note titled The Source.

The recordings for the extended play of A Tribute To Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers were an opportunity to document his interpretations. “I’m trying to change the pages,” Allen explains during a live performance. Tony Allen plays afrobeat and, he does not compromise, even when playing jazz standards. In the mini-album, he shows his jazz side and the way he is fusing the genres.

Allen doesn’t actually “swing” at all on these four standards associated with Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, instead putting each through his own Afrobeat prism.” London-based journalist and editor John Lewis explains in his review for The Guardian.

Moanin’ is reinvented in straight eighths, Politely is played in a rocking 6/8 rhythm, while A Night in Tunisia is transformed into a series of wonderfully jerky, disjointed riffs. Throughout, Allen’s Parisian septet improvises inventively around these unusual meters, most impressively on the Drum Thunder Suite, where one of Blakey’s many flirtations with West African music is, in turn, Africanised.

The release features four tracks associated with Art Blakey. It opens with Bobby Timmons’ celebrated composition Moanin’. The song got first recorded by Art Blakey’s band in 1958 and was released the following year on the album originally titled Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (BLP 4003). The Blue Note original album also includes Benny Golson’s and Art Blakey’s track The Drum Thunder Suite, which is the final and fourth song on Allen’s homage.

The second track is the signature piece of Dizzy Gillespie’s bebop big band, A Night in Tunisia. The song has associations with Art Blakey thanks to trumpeter Lee Morgan, who was part of Gillespie’s band between 1956 and 1958. Morgan got spotlighted with his solo work during live performances of A Night in Tunisia. He joined Art Blakey’s band, and in 1961, they released the album titled A Night In Tunisia (BLP 4049). The album opens with a hard bop adaptation of Gillespie’s composition, giving the drums a significant solo status.

The third track is the jazz standard Politely, composed by trumpeter Bill Hardman. The song got originally released on the Blue Note album titled The Big Beat (BLP 4029) by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers (released in 1960). Bill Hardman, who was part of The Jazz Messengers between 1956 and 1958 (called the “Second” Messengers), did not take part in the recordings. Instead, Lee Morgan, who was the main trumpeter of The Jazz Messengers between 1959 and 1961, provided the trumpet line.

Hugh Masekela and Tony Allen – Rejoice, Here Comes Tony

Would there be afrobeat without Tony Allen? Tony Allen’s beats and rhythms were, to say it modest, genre-defining. He will always be remembered as the pioneer and co-founder of afrobeat. He was a curious musician and left his mark on various collaborative projects that would shift and blend music genres.

Tony Allen passed away in April 2020, one month after the master drummer released the collaborative work Rejoice. For this project, the Nigerian drummer worked together with South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela. Hugh Masekela, who had a major influence on jazz in South Africa, would add melodies to the drum beats of Tony Allen. The two met in the seventies thanks to their associations with Fela Kuti (Africa ’70).

In the decades to come, they talked about making an album together. In 2010, producer Nick Gold took the opportunity and recorded the encounter. The recording remained unfinished and was stored in the archives. With Hugh Masekela’s passing in 2018, Tony Allen and Nick Gold continued working on the original tapes during the summer of 2019. They finished the recording at the same studio where the original sessions took place, the Livingston Recording Studios in London.

‘Rejoice’ can be seen as the long overdue confluence of two mighty African musical rivers – a union of two free-flowing souls for whom borders, whether physical or stylistic, are things to pass through or ignore completely.

According to Allen, the album deals in “a kind of south African-Nigerian swing-jazz afrobeat stew.”

World Circuit – text featuring on the album’s cover

Robbers, Thugs And Muggers (O’Galajani), the opening song of the album, starts with a vocal intro by Hugh Masekela. Fifteen seconds in, Tony Allen sets the rhythm on the drums and after finishing the vocal intro, Hugh Masekela picks up the drums with melodies on his flugelhorn. The opening track defines the rest of the album, a unique fusion of afrobeat and jazz where drum beats, vocals, and trumpet melodies are fundamental elements.

Tony Allen & Hugh Masekela – The Story of Rejoice (World Circuit Records)