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Yannis Tony Allen

Foals' Yannis Philippakis teams up with the late Tony Allen on new project Yannis & The Yaw

17 April 2024, 10:05 | Written by Tyler Damara Kelly

Foals frontman Yannis Philippakis has teamed up with the late great drummer Tony Allen (best known for his work with Fela Kuti) for the forthcoming Lagos Paris London EP.

Yannis & The Yaw is definitively not the start of a solo career: the “yaw” of the name references the nature of a project that emerged entirely organically during a specific period of time; a distinct musical excursion that Yannis expects will resurface episodically when events, environment and musical collaborators all fall fortuitously into place.

Joined by Tony’s regular collaborators Vincent Taeger (percussion, marimba), Vincent Taurelle (keys) and Ludovic Bruni (bass, guitar), during a session in Paris in 2016, the drummer’s initially “pleasantly dismissive” reception of Yannis evolved into an “undeniable connection through generations, through cultures, through experiences” as their two-day session yielded an EP’s worth of material, which was further developed over a handful of subsequent sessions. But between scheduling conflicts and Covid restrictions, actually completing their ideas proved to be frustratingly elusive. Naturally, when Tony passed away in April 2020 aged 79, Yannis felt compelled to bring the project to fruition.

“There was an imperative to finish it in a way that I had never felt with another record. There was a deep duty to do it, to finish it as well as possible, and to pay respect to him by getting it out there," Philippakis says. "Going through some of the drum takes was a moving experience because those recordings were some of the last pieces of music he ever worked on. There’s an eternal quality to these drum tracks, and you feel a continuity of his life and energy through them. He wanted people to hear this, and it’s good to be able to do it for him - but of course it’s slightly bittersweet.”

The broader EP goes far beyond the traditional Afrobeat style that Yannis had expected to make. Instead it possesses a wealth of pan-African influences both old and new, touches of Foals echoing around the outskirts like distant thunder, while Tony acts as a “percussive conductor at the heart of the tornado.” Above all, it is a celebration of the man who inspired it; a communion with the past that provides an escape in the present day.

Lagos Paris London by Yannis & The Yaw, featuring Tony Allen, will be released on 30 August via Transgressive Records, and is available to pre-order now.

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