The following was originally published at Ongoing History of Protest Songs.
Influential Nigerian drummer Tony Allen died on April 30, 2020, at the age of 79. He was
considered a pioneer of the Afrobeat genre for his work with Fela Kuti as the drummer and music director of Fela’s backing band Afrika ’70.
After parting ways with Fela in 1979, he continued to be involved in a variety of different projects. This included the supergroup The Good, the Bad & the Queen, which featured Damon Albarn of Blur, Paul Simonon of The Clash, and Simon Tong of The Verve.
Also, Albarn had Allen collaborate with him on “How Far?” for one of his projects known as Gorillaz. The track was released in honor of Allen on May 2.
The track features British M.C. Skepta, and it includes socially conscious lyrics, like, “Love how you live, remember the world, full of expensive shit. Can’t forget the poor ’cause you’re friends with the rich.”
Along with being a commentary on materialism, the words “expensive shit” likely are a call back to Fela & The Afrika 70, which recorded an album and title track called “Expensive Shit” that was released in 1976.
As a further tribute to Allen, the song refers to “Zombie” another classic Afrobeat album released by the band in 1976.
“How Far?” was posted on YouTube with the following quote from Allen: “I want to take care of youngsters – they have messages, and I want to bring them on my beat.”
*For more on Tony Allen, Shadowproof editor Kevin Gosztola wrote a bit of a retrospective for our member newsletter. Read it here.