Music News: Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen dies at 79

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The Current Music News for May 1, 2020 (MPR Video)

Drummer Tony Allen has died of an abdominal aortic aneurysm at age 79. The Nigerian musician was an Afrobeat legend best known for playing in Fela Kuti's band Africa 70. Fela Kuti once said, "Without Tony Allen, there would be no Afrobeat."

Tony Allen met Fela Kuti in 1964, and over the next several years the two musicians built a new type of African dance music partially inspired by American funk. In songs that routinely stretched over ten minutes, Afrobeat bands built incredibly intricate rhythms where every instrument might have a solo. As drummer, Tony Allen knew when to show off and when to pull back, shaping a supple rhythm that was responsive to the evolving groove.

Afrobeat became, and remains, incredibly popular. The sound Tony Allen helped to invent inspired bands like Talking Heads, who were introduced to Fela Kuti's music by Brian Eno. He told them, "This is the music of the future."

Allen remained active for his entire life, releasing a collaboration with the late trumpeter Hugh Masekela just this year. He was a member of The Good, The Bad, and The Queen with Damon Albarn; and he collaborated with the bassist Flea on a 2012 album.

On Instagram, Flea wrote, "The greatest drummer on Earth has left us. What a wildman, with a massive, kind and free heart and the deepest one-of-a-kind groove. Fela Kuti did not invent afrobeat, Fela and Tony birthed it together." (Rolling Stone)

MusiCares relief fund runs dry

Musicians are really hurting right now. Evidence of that is the fact that a $14 million COVID-19 relief fund created by the Grammy-related charity MusiCares is already used up. Music professionals were able to apply for grants of up to $1,000 to help them cover expenses with the industry shut down, but the fund has just closed applications until it can raise more money.

In a statement, the fund said, "It is the largest amount of money raised, with the most recipients helped, for any single event in our history. To date this year, we've vetted and approved 20,200 individuals to receive assistance. For context, that's more than double the number of music people we typically serve in one year." (Billboard)

Sirius XM debuts channels dedicated to Prince, David Bowie, the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and Fleetwood Mac

Prince, David Bowie, the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Metallica, and Fleetwood Mac. It sounds like a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction class, but actually that's the list of artists who just got their own dedicated channels on Sirius XM. Country star George Strait is also getting a channel, and the Rolling Stones are getting a newly expanded channel.

All those channels debut today, with streaming free through May 31. The artists or their estates are on board for all of them, and the Prince channel will feature a two-hour demo the artist made in 2005 for a proposed Sirius show Prince was going to host with DJ Rashida and comic Katt Williams. (Star Tribune)

"Weird Al" Yankovic plays Ted Nugent on Reno 911

"Weird Al" Yankovic is parodying Ted Nugent. No, he's not remaking "Cat Scratch Fever" — he's playing the Motor City Mad Man on a new season of Reno 911. You can catch just a glimpse of him in the trailer; the new season starts Monday on Quibi. (Consequence of Sound)


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