Ben Okri & Skepta Feature on Tony Allen’s “Cosmosis”

The Booker Prize winner appears on the first song off There Is No End, a posthumous album celebrating the late Afrobeat drummer.
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Tony Allen by Bernard Benant.

Tony Allen by Bernard Benant.

Before his death on 30 April 2020, the legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen was working on a project. Next month, There Is No End will be released posthumously through Blue Note Records. “Cosmosis,” the first track from the album, features the Booker Prize winning novelist Ben Okri and the rapper Skepta.

Over Tony Allen’s relaxed drums, Ben Okri layers poignant lines, political messaging, in his sibylline voice. With the production barely rising out of its set rhythm, Okri is allowed space for such memorable images:

The present moment began with fire,

And still it burns.

The present moment began with fire,

And still it burns.

It began with water,

And still it drowns, still they drown.

It began with air, see how the bombs fall,

On houses made of sand,

Dreams made of flesh.

Tony Allen was born in Lagos, playing drums in his teenage years as well as studying Jazz, Highlife, Juju, and other genres. In 1964 he began working with Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti and five years later became his musical director, helping shape the vision of Kuti into the iconic sound we know today.

In music circles, Allen was regarded as one of the world’s greatest drummers, and upon leaving Fela’s Africa ’70 band, his genius was sought by a long list of prestigious musicians: Hugh Masakela, Angelique Kidjo, King Sunny Ade, and techno legend Jeff Mills.

“This man could have lived another 150 years and kept creating new worlds,” Ben Okri said of Allen in a statement. “He had become the master shaman of his art. He knew himself and his mind. He wanted his mind to be open to the energies of a new generation. . . but like a great mathematician or scientist who found a code for a new world, with just a few beats, he created this extraordinary canvas.” 

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There Is No End is out on 30 April 2021. Watch “Cosmosis”:

Emmanuel Esomnofu
Emmanuel Esomnofu is a staff writer at Open Country Mag. He is a culture journalist and has written extensively on Nigerian music and on several moving parts of popular culture. His writing appears online in Native Mag, Okay Africa, Kalahari Review, Praxis Magazine, and elsewhere. He was published in print in The Muse, the oldest student journal in West Africa. In December 2020, he worked on "Fuji: A Opera" as a copywriter, creating informative and exciting stories from Fuji's rich history.

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