Back in October 2009, Strut’s Inspiration Information series was in full swing. Following an acclaimed collaboration between Mulatu Astatke and The Heliocentrics, Finnish maverick Jimi Tenor hit the studio for a mouth-watering head to head with Afrobeat drumming legend, Tony Allen.
Tenor had already built a reputation as a fascinating enigma in modern day music. Consistently one of the most inspired and unpredictable live artists around, his work since his breakthrough album ‘Intervision’ (Warp, 1997) had involved open-minded projects ranging from live film soundtracks and orchestral pieces to a series of Afro-based albums with his band Kabu Kabu. Enjoying a burgeoning revival, Tony Allen had continued to attract new fans. Celebrated as the creator of the Afrobeat rhythm and a lynchpin of Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 band, his work at the time of this recording had included the first album as The Good, The Bad & The Queen with Damon Albarn and his debut recording for World Circuit Records, ‘Secret Agent’.
Recorded at Lovelite Studios in Berlin during November 2008 with further sessions in Finland and Paris, the Tenor / Allen collaboration whipped up a raw, heavy analogue sound mixing the full range of Allen’s Afrobeat repertoire with Tenor’s off-kilter brew of dark humour, tongue-in-cheek lyrics and tight, firing musicianship. The sessions involved key members of Tenor’s Kabu Kabu band and Berlin-based guest MC Allonymous with tracks evolving naturally from jamming ideas together over five intense days of recording, fuelled by plenty of African food and whisky. Tenor’s trademark range of home-made instruments rubbed shoulders with vintage keyboards and traditional African percussion.
The resulting set became one of the best recordings that both artists produced during this period. Tracks range from Jimi’s S&M tableau, ‘Darker Side of Night’ to the apocalyptic commentary on our times, ‘Path To Wisdom’ and the hilarious lampooning of the UK immigration system, ‘Mama England’, composed on the Tenor tour bus. The album also featured fusions based around more traditional low-slung Afrobeat structures (‘Sinuhe’, ‘Got My Egusi’) and ended with the epic freestyle juggernaut, ‘Three Continents’, a life affirming, mesmeric groove built around another rough-as-nails Allenko rhythm base.
Jimi Tenor & Tony Allen