words & photos by Benjamin Lozovsky

Tony Allen
Tony Allen

"What we bring is heritage," said a gracious Tony Allen Tuesday night at the Oval in Stuyvesant Town. "Thank you for tripping with us."

Quite a few attendees of the free concert, part of the Music on The Oval performance series and the first of three shows Allen is/was playing in the NYC area, had probably not experienced much or any of the heritage of which Allen spoke.

Fela Kuti's longtime drummer and according to Brian Eno, "perhaps the greatest drummer who has ever lived," played to a munchkin-filled audience that had about as many temper tantrums (but far less chair throwing) as the canceled Drake/Hanson Seaport show that nearly turned into a riot the day before. But age or cultural backgrounds didn't matter as the father of afro-beat percussion illuminated his contributions to the music and cultural landscape to a sea of dads and a new generation of eager ears.

Tony Allen

Even as age 70, Allen was effortless in his drumming, launching into understated fills and precise syncopation all while singing lead. A self taught drummer steeped in both western and African percussion, his jazz influences were obvious, categorized by a technical ability and suaveness that has yet to be matched within the Afrobeat genre.

After playing another free show at Metrotech in Brooklyn today (happening as this is being posted), Allen brings his Afrobeat Orchestra to Le Poisson Rouge tonight for a slightly older crowd. Janka Nabay is also on the bill of the show that doesn't get started until 11:30pm (6/17). Tickets are still available.

More pictures from Stuy Town below...

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