William Onyeabor

World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Onyeabor?

Image of William Onyeabor - World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Onyeabor?
Record Label
Luaka Bop

About this item

THE PICCADILLY RECORDS REISSUE/COLLECTION OF THE YEAR 2013.

Through its World Psychedelic Classics series, Luaka Bop has succeeded at introducing long-forgotten artists including Os Mutantes, Shuggie Otis and Tim Maia to the world at large. William Onyeabor is as obscure as these other artists were before their Luaka Bop releases, although his recordings from the 70s and 80s are beloved by die-hard record collectors and artists such as Damon Albarn, Devendra Banhart, Four Tet and Caribou, to name a few. The music ranges from synth-heavy electronic dance music to Afrosoul with saxophones and female backup singers, to psychedelic funk with wah-wah guitar and fuzzy keyboards - and often combines all of these elements.

'Who Is William Onyeabor?' may be the most complicated, if also one of the richest, undertakings in Luaka Bop's (rarely straightforward) 25-year history. Following the eight albums Onyeabor self-released between 1978 and 1985, he became a Born-Again Christian, refusing ever to speak about himself or his music again. Various biographies can be found online. Some say he studied cinematography in the Soviet Union and returned to Nigeria in the mid-70s to start his own film company, Wilfilms. Some say he was a lawyer with a degree from a university in Great Britain. Others portray him as a businessman who for years worked on government contracts in Enugu, Nigeria.

By attempting to speak with Onyeabor himself, and by talking to people who seem to have firsthand knowledge, Luaka Bop has been trying to construct an accurate biography of him for the past 18 months...without success.

One thing that's undisputable is that Onyeabor's music is utterly unique and ahead of its time.

The vinyl release comprises 13 tracks spanning Onyeabor's body of work and will include artwork by John Akomfrah, Njideka Akunyili, Harrison Haynes, Dave Muller, Odili Donald Odita and Xaviera Simmons. The CD and release includes nine tracks.

"The world might just be better off not hearing [Onyeabor's "Atomic Bomb"], which will burrow and propagate its seed exponentially by the second, into the hearts and souls of all humanity. It's the catchiest song I've ever heard; when it gets in my brain, I can't sleep...He's a mythical character from Nigeria." - Devendra Banhart in Uncut

"Anyone out there who is making music at the moment...will be quite excited by this..." - Damon Albarn on BBC Radio One

"LCD Soundsystem sounds like an American William Onyeabor." - Peaking Lights

"Talked to Luaka Bop about details of the William Onyeabor comp they are working on... Gonna blow minds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" - Four Tet

"People are really going to freak out!" - Caribou

STAFF COMMENTS

Philippa says: Never the most prolific series, Luaka Bop’s ‘World Psychedelic Classics’ album compilations, collections and reissues have always been greeted with excitement by Piccadilly Records staff and customers alike. Shining a light on differing musical scenes or lesser known artists within the psychedelic ummah, they have so far rediscovered the wonderful music of Os Mutantes, Shuggie Otis and Tim Maia. With volume five they return to the ‘The Funky Fuzzy Sounds of West Africa’ with a long overdue overview of the work of William Onyeabor. Nigerian by birth, the lack of knowledge about Onyeabor’s life seems to have encouraged the build up of a mythical back story taking in Soviet cinematography and studying at university in the UK (both of which might actually be true). What we do know is that his eight albums, self-released between 1978 and 1985, contain some of the most joyous, uplifting and ahead of its time music from the era. As with musicians all over the World at the time, Onyeabor was experimenting with new electronic instruments. He used them within a funk band set up, with amazing results. The combination of Onyeabor’s enunciated African-English vocals, a female backing chorus, synth-heavy grooves, fuzzy wah-wah guitars, tight rhythms and sax solos makes for an irresistible sound. With his original albums harder to come by than rocking horse shit, even occasional bootlegs have been snapped up with glee (needs must when the devil drives and all that), so this fully licensed collection from Luaka Bop is one of those essential purchases for anyone interested in African music. The set includes the hip-grinding electro-funk anthem “Body & Soul”, Mini Moog au go-go disco-funk monster “Good Name” and bump and hustle groover “Let’s Fall In Love” along with another six gems (more if you get the vinyl version).

Accompanied by glowing endorsements from the likes of Devendra Banhart, Peaking Lights, Four Tet, Damon Albarn and Caribou, this is an album not to be missed.

TRACK LISTING

1. Body And Soul
2. Atomic Bomb
3. Good Name
4. Something You Will Never Forget
5. Why Go To Ware
6. Love Is Blind
7. Heaven And Hell
8. Let’s Fall In Love
9. Fantastic Man

LP EXCLUSIVES – NOT AVAILABLE ON CD OR DIGITALLY:
10. When The Going Is Smooth & Good
11. The Way To Win Your Love
12. Jungle Gods
13. Love Me Now

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