Songlines world music awards honour Afrobeat pioneer Tony Allen

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By Angus MacSwan

LONDON,  – Nigerian artists spanning five decades of music-making took honours in Songlines magazine’s 2015 awards, with Afrobeat pioneer and drummer Tony Allen winning Best Artist and Ibibio Sound Machine picked as Best Newcomers.

The Malian father and son duo of Toumani Sidiki Diabate were named Best Group for their work highlighting the griot (story teller) tradition in the awards, announced Thursday.

The Kronos Quartet, usually associated with classical music, took the Cross-Cultural Collaboration award for an album embracing the music of countries ranging Syria to .

Allen, 74, was nominated for his “Film of ” album but the award was as much a recognition of his lifetime achievements, Songlines editor-in-chief Simon Broughton said.

Allen began working with the late Nigerian music legend Fela Kuti in 1964 and helped create the Afrobeat style which energised the continent. Once described as the “finest drummer on the planet”, his music blends jazz, funk and tribal grooves.

“As Fela said, without Tony Allen, there wouldn’t be any Afrobeat. Fela very much handed the invention of Afrobeat over to him as a moving force,” Broughton told Reuters.

“Film of Life,” which features a collaboration with Blur’s Damon Albarn, showed him still fresh and eager to experiment.

It also deals with topical issues. Two tracks, “Go Back” and “Boat Journey”, with its refrain of “Don’t the boat journey”, highlight the plight of Africans fleeing from war and poverty only to risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean.