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Remembering Legendary Nigerian Drummer Tony Allen

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Tony Allen

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

Exactly in August 2009, legendary Nigerian drummer, Tony Allen, who created the Afrobeat along with his old bandmate, Fela Kuti, and I had our first historical meeting in Paris, France.

I had flown in from Shanghai, China, to meet with him for an informal encounter. Despite our heavy working schedules and limited time, the meeting lasted for about two hours.

During the discussions, I asked him several questions about his professional musical career and life. In fact, he was extremely passionate and enthusiastic talking with me, and to remember him here are a few excerpts:

When did you begin your musical career and who are your favourite musicians?

My career started at the age of 20.  In fact, I was hired by Sir Victor Olaiya to play claves with his highlife band, “the Cool Cats” and was able to fill the drum-set chair when the former Cool Cats drummer left the band. I also played with Agu Norris and the Heatwaves, the Nigerian Messengers and the Melody Makers.

In 1964, I joined Fela’s ‘Koola Lobitos’ and stayed with Fela for 15 years. When I was learning to play, I’d check out LPs and magazine tutorials by Gene Krupa, Art Blakey and Max Roach, Guy Warren was also an influence. Of course, I was also a fan of Elvin Jones, Tony Williams and Bernard Purdie.

I was asked to name my dream band to play with, and I chose: Oumou Sangare and Salif Keita on vocals, Bootsy Collins on bass, George Benson on guitar, Wayne Shorter on sax, Joe Zawinul on keys, Don Cherry on trumpet, and with a line-up like that, I’d have to be the drummer!

What was the motivation behind your chosen profession?

My parents were…not keen. Back then, musicians were more or less thought of as beggars, or worse. But I just put it in front of them. I was an electrical technician, but I wanted to make a change. My mother was never happy about it, but my father, who was an amateur musician, eventually agreed.

How is this profession influencing or shaping your own social life?

It has had a profound effect. Our albums with Afrika 70 either provoked or described a series of increasingly brutal attacks by the Nigerian army and police. Fela and his immediate family bore the brunt of this long and shameful catalogue of assaults, trumped up charges and jailings, and I myself was jailed on one occasion. With Fela, it was like being at university, and you don’t run away from education. We learnt so much by not being cowards.

When I left Fela’s band, that had a big effect on my life. Lagos was too small for me and Fela. It was a small place, and I wanted room to take off without causing competition, I eventually chose Paris partly because the British immigration people were giving me difficulties, but also because African music was more happening then in Paris than in London, and my record company at the time was in France.

It was the only place I felt I could exercise my knowledge. The only place to make a living. Being a musician, the line between work and social life is, often blurred doing what I do for a living is what I do for enjoyment.

There seems to be some truthfulness in your career. Which songs spiritually appeal most to you personally when on stage?

Absolutely, as a musician and an artist, you have to be true to yourself. Different songs appeal to me more at different times and under different circumstances, it can depend on who you’re playing with, where you’re playing and how the audience respond to what you’re playing. Playing music is very spiritual but I won’t say that one thing I do is more spiritual than another as I try to invest all in everything that I do.

Of what importance are the messages you convey through your songs to our society, in your interpretation?

Afrobeat has always been about the struggle, then and now. Fela was right about everything, especially the messages in all his songs. Everything he sang about is still happening. Nigeria’s not getting any better. It’s all misadministration and corruption, survival of the fittest.

Lagos is a complete mother ****** of a place. These messages we send to the government, they never listen to them. The people wait for an effect, but there’s no effect. These guys do nothing. Afrobeat is rebellious music. We have to keep shouting.

Do you mind talking about your experiences (both positive and negative) in previous European tours?

Laughs! I don’t mind at all but this is a big question that I’m not sure how to answer. The fact is that the good experiences overwhelmingly outweigh the bad, which is why I’m still out on tour at nearly 70 years old. As long as people want to come and see me play, I’ll play.

How do you usually visualize your audience during musical performances?

I am very pleased to have had the chance to play at many festivals abroad. The foreign people know all about social and political upheaval, so even though our cultures and heritage are completely different, they feel the power of Afrobeat and confirm my belief that music is the great healer in the world. It was a long musical trip, there is no way back but well worth it. You just don’t have to return, I have to move forward!

Many people think going into musical world is just to make quick money. What is your reaction to this?

Ha! Most musicians are struggling musicians only a small minority make serious money, musicians all around the world play for the love of it, to express themselves creatively and for the interaction with the audience. A lucky few might make millions but you can’t judge everyone else on that basis, lawyers, accountants, bankers, those guys make the serious money. Also, those motivated by money don’t make as good music, if your inspiration isn’t true, then it shines through in music.

Would you have opted out of stage if you were offered an alternative job?

Not all, as I said earlier, I had job which I left in order to be a musician, that was almost 50 years ago and I am still in it. I think I made the right decision.

If you could have lunch with anyone, real or fictional, alive or dead, who would it be and what is the first thing you would ask him or her?

It’s impossible to pick one single person, there are loved ones that would be great to see one more time, but musically, the most obvious person would be Fela Kuti, and I’d ask him if he’s happy with what’s happened to the music that we created together.

What are your goals for the coming years?

I want to keep on doing what I do, improving and doing new things. I’m very happy with my band and our new album, we can do great things together. I’m very fortunate that I get the opportunities to work with all manner of artists doing different and interesting projects, long may it continue.

Music is my mission. I never get satisfied and I’m still learning from others. The musical world is very spiritual, and I don’t think there’s an end to it. The best legacy is your professional work and leaving an indelible mark on the minds of people.

Additional information

Agence France Press (AFP) wrote that Allen was the drummer and musical director of Fela Kuti’s band Africa ‘70 in the 1960s and 1970s.

During that time, the pair created afrobeat, combining West African musical styles such as highlife and Fuji music with American imports jazz and funk. Afrobeat went on to become one of the totemic genres of 20th century African music.

Over Allen’s thrilling beat, Fela laid out his revolutionary and pan-African message, which led him to become one of the abiding icons of the struggle for freedom across the continent.

Allen and Fela recorded around 40 albums together in Africa ‘70, before parting ways after a mythic 26-year collaboration. Such was the hole that Allen left in his band, Fela needed four drummers to replace him.

Allen taught himself to play drums from the age of 18, drawing inspiration from American jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker as well as contemporary African music. He remained hugely influential and beloved by generations of musicians.

British musician and producer Brian Eno has called Allen “perhaps the greatest drummer who ever lived.” Allen was the drummer in the supergroup The Good, the Bad & the Queen, also featuring Blur singer Damon Albarn and The Clash bassist Paul Simonon, which released its second album in 2018.

Tony Allen died suddenly at the age of 79 in the Paris suburb Courbevoie, France.

Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via dipo.olowookere@businesspost.ng

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Spotify to Commence Operations in Nigeria, Others

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Spotify Acquires Parcast
By Ahmed Rahma

A Swedish audio streaming and media services provider, Spotify, has announced its intention to commence business operations in Nigeria, some African countries and others in the coming days.

To ensure usability in all of these new markets, the company also officially added support for 36 new languages to its platform, including Romanian, Hindi and Swahili. This means the platform now supports more than 60 languages in total.

Spotify explained that it was expanding its services to many Africam nations because these areas represent more than one billion potential new listeners.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to building a truly borderless audio ecosystem— connecting creators, listeners, and content—Spotify is embarking on a sweeping expansion that will introduce the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service available to more than a billion people in 80+ new markets around the world, and add 36 languages to our platform.

“These moves represent Spotify’s broadest market expansion to date,” the statement on the official website read.

According to Spotify, its full global music catalogue will be available in each of the new markets and the entire podcast catalogue will be available in the majority of them.

In each new market, “We will work with local creators and partners to expand our music offerings and deliver a Spotify experience that meets the unique needs of each market.”

Spotify offers digital copyright restricted recorded music and podcasts including more than 70 million songs, from record labels and media companies. As a freemium service, basic features are free with advertisements and limited control, while additional features, such as offline listening and commercial-free listening, are offered via paid subscriptions.

Users can search for music based on artist, album, or genre, and can create, edit, and share playlists on the platform.

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Disney Offers Customers More Viewing Options

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Disney

By Ahmed Rahma

Walt Disney is set to introduce a new brand, Star, which will feature more viewing options for adults and a higher price for everyone using the Disney+ service.

With the new programming, subscribers will be able to watch more shows from the world’s largest entertainment company, including the ABC drama Grey’s Anatomy, FX’s biker series Sons of Anarchy and Hulu’s Love, Victor, about a teen coming to terms with his sexual orientation.

There will also be R-rated movies, such as the Queen Anne biopic The Favourite and Marvel’s Deadpool 2, which moms and dads can wall off from kids by activating parental controls, Bloomberg reported.

According to the report, the price for Disney+ will increase to €8.99 ($10.87) a month from €6.99 due to the development.

The new Star brand is also being introduced in Canada, Australia and Singapore as a sixth “tile” on the Disney+ home screen, alongside Marvel, Pixar and other labels.

Disney+ has been a runaway success, garnering nearly 95 million subscribers globally.

The challenge now, as the Star launch underscores, is to grow beyond the current customer base of families with young children and adults who love Star Wars and Marvel.

In Europe, the problem is magnified because consumers in some countries don’t have a history of paying for TV. Local streaming rivals are also starting to emerge, including Sky’s Now TV in the U.K., Vivendi SA’s Canal+ Series in France and Nordic Entertainment Group AB’s Viaplay.

“A lot of consumers are looking for relatively low-cost entertainment,” said Richard Broughton, research director at London’s Ampere Analysis.

“Their incomes have been impacted by the pandemic. Now is the time to grab as many consumers as possible,” he added.

Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are the leaders in European streaming, and they’ve been active there much longer.

Disney+, at 14 million subscribers, trails Netflix’s 63.5 million, Amazon’s 43.2 million and Apple TV’s 14.8 million, according to Ampere. Disney doesn’t break out its numbers in the region.

The Star launch illustrates Disney’s differing approach to different markets. In India, a Disney+ Hotstar product featuring programs for grown-ups and live sports is already available.

In June, Disney will introduce Star as a stand-alone service in Latin America, with live sports. It will be bundled with Disney+ at a discounted price of $9 a month.

Disney has also announced 10 original series in the works for Star in Europe, a move that appeases countries with local content requirements, as well as consumers eager to see programs that relate to them.

According to the principal analyst at Digital TV Research in London, Simon Murray, ultimately, a library of programs such as espionage series 24 and domestic drama Desperate Housewives may prove a lure for 20- and 30-something consumers who haven’t signed up for Disney+ already.

“There’s quite a war going on there,” but nobody is losing subscribers,” he said.

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Fabulous Bump NG Unveils Pregnancy Affirmations Journal

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Pregnancy Affirmations Journal Adetoun Jegede

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

A homegrown maternity fashion brand, Fabulous Bump NG, has released a new publication called the Pregnancy Affirmations Journal.

The Fabulous Bump NG was established in 2018 out of the need to see more pregnant women and nursing mums slay whilst their buns cook in the oven and even after delivery.

According to the founder of the brand, Ms Adetoun Jegede, the newest baby, Pregnancy Affirmations Journal, a 40-week power-packed journal, will assist readers with almost everything about pregnancy.

She said the book is armed with carefully curated words of encouragement and insight to help mums-to-be to stay encouraged and uplifted on their journey to childbirth, adding that an audio version filled with positive affirmations will also be available.

It was further disclosed that each chapter will have sections for ladies to fill in their pesky cravings, to their symptoms and weekly experiences.

In addition, mums-to-be will have a dedicated spot in the book to pour out their hearts in a love letter to their little one at the end of each trimester as well as share special milestones.

Mums can share the journals when their little ones have grown up and reminisce on what their pregnancy was like, a statement issued on Friday stated.

“I produced this journal with the sole aim of helping pregnant women create the world they want to have during their pregnancy as well as project what they want to see in their children.

“I strongly believe there is power in the tongue, life and death lie in it, so as they document their journeys they breathe life into the experience,” Ms Jegede noted.

She assured that readers, especially the moms-to-be, will feel support, encouragement, overwhelmed with love, boldness and strength to keep pushing through and a magical connection with their bundle of joy.

It was disclosed that the book goes N5,000 and can be purchased online through @fabulousbumpng with worldwide delivery. The audio version is expected to be available on all streaming platforms.

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FG, CBN Sign MoU to Revamp National Theatre

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Revamp National Theatre

By Modupe Gbadeyanka

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Revamping and Restoration of the National Theatre in Iganmu, Lagos, has been signed.

The deal was signed on Sunday, February 14, 2021, between the federal government and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)/Bankers Committee.

This followed the approval of the Federal Executive Committee (FEC) on Wednesday, February 10, 2021, for the transformation of the national asset built for the Festac 77.

Before the signing of the deal today in Lagos, on July 12, 2020, the federal government officially handed over the National Theatre to the CBN and Bankers Committee repairs.

It was gathered that MoU signing and award of contract for the project witnessed on Sunday by the Governor Babajide Sanwoolu of Lagos State; the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed; the Minister of Sports and Youths Development, Mr Sunday Dare and the Governor of CBN, Mr Godwin Emefiele.

Others present were the CEO of Access Bank, Mr Herbert Wigwe; the General Manager/CEO of National Theatre, Prof Sunday Ododo; the Director of Legal at the Ministry of Information and Culture, Mr Nnanna Ibom, amongst others.

The National Theatre, when completed, would be one of the best event centres in Africa. It will also have the Lagos Creative and Entertainment Centre (LC&EC), which will comprise four hubs: films, music, information technology and fashion.

Speaking at the signing ceremony today, the Minister of Information and Culture assured that there would not be a single job loss, rather, the project would create no fewer than 10,000 direct jobs.

In his remarks, the CBN Governor disclosed that the renovation of the National Theatre would take 15 months to complete, assuring that the edifice would be one Nigerians would be proud of.

Business Post reports that the construction of the National Theatre was started by the military regime of General Yakubu Gowon and completed during the military regime of Olusegun Obasanjo in 1976 ahead of the Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC) in 1977.

The facility a 5,000-seater main hall with a collapsible stage and two capacity cinema halls, all of which are equipped with facilities for simultaneous translation of 8 languages; among others. But for many years, the National Theatre was abandoned and left to rot away.

Revamp National Theatre1

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Nigerian Singer Lil Frosh Lands in Prison After Wrong Hit

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Lil Frosh and girlfriend

By Ahmed Rahma

A former signee of Davido Music Worldwide (DMW), a record label owned by a popular singer, David Davido Adeleke, Sani Wasiu, professionally known as Lil Frosh, has been remanded at the Ikoyi Correctional Centre, Lagos.

Lil Frosh was catapulted to the prison on Tuesday by a Lagos State Magistrate Court in Yaba for doing a ‘wrong hit’.

He was accused of beating his former girlfriend, Ms Gift Camille, who is a video vixen, last year.

Reports of the alleged assault went viral in 2020 and this led to Davido terminating the deal his company had with Lil Frosh, who had a hit single in the name of his former boss.

A group known as the International Association Of Women Lawyers, Lagos State branch, took up the matter on behalf of Ms Camille and filed a suit against the upcoming rapper at the court.

At the hearing yesterday, the Magistrate, Adeola Olatunbosun, said the singer should be remanded in the prison and then adjourned the case till March 9, 2021.

Recall that the assault allegation was made by the manager and brother to Ms Camille known as Michael. He called Lil Frosh out on social media, accusing him of maltreating his sister.

This was later corroborated by the victim, who claimed that the singer hit her different times, damaged her phone, recorded her naked and threatened to release the videos if she spoke up.

Michael went on to share photos of Ms Camille’s badly bruised face after she was allegedly beaten to a pulp by the rapper.

Lil Frosh, whose contract lasted for a year, was signed to DMW in October 2019 and released a single titled Davido while at the record label.

He has several other singles as well as collaborations with other artistes like his close friend, Zinoleesky on Omo Ologo, his former label mate, Mayorkun on Kole Re Body, amongst others.

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MTV Base Africa Indefinitely Postpones 2021 Music Awards

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MTV Base Africa MAMA

By Ahmed Rahma

The 2021 MTV Africa Music Awards ceremony has been postponed, the organisers announced on Thursday night.

The event, which was scheduled to hold in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, on February 20, has been postponed indefinitely.

The prestigious ceremony is being organised in partnership with Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism.

In a message, MTN Base Africa said it was moving the date of the programme to a yet-to-be-announced date.

The MTV Base Music Awards is one of the key events on the music calendar in Africa with performances from leading African and international artistes.

“MTV Base is postponing the 2021 MTV Africa Music Awards.

“We will keep fans updated as we have more news,” MTV Base Africa posted on its official Twitter handle.

However, MTV Base Africa did not give reasons for the decision to postpone the event.

A Ugandan musician-turned-politician and opposition leader, Mr Bobi Wine, held a news conference following MTV Base’s decision.

He said it was painful to see that MTV was being used to sanitise the oppressive regime in Uganda.

“I am glad MTV is also seeing it and acting in respect of all the rights of artists. It will be such a shame for the MTV Music Awards to be held in Uganda under gunpoint,” he said.

The Kampala edition was set to be the first-ever live-streamed virtual MTV Africa Awards due to complications arising from the coronavirus pandemic and also, the first time the awards would be held in Uganda.

The awards, known as the MAMAs, first held in 2008 in Abuja, and last held in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2016 as well as East Africa in 2009 in Nairobi, Kenya.

Meanwhile, MAMAs voting is ongoing and the public could vote via the awards’ official website.

Some of the top Nigerian artistes and comedians nominated into various categories of the award are Tiwa Savage, Adekunle Gold, Naira Marley, Wizkid, Mark Angel, Simi, Burna Boy, amongst others.

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