WILLIAM ONYEABOR is hopefully but not likely a name you have heard before. The music of the mysterious man, released in the late 1970s and early 80s, characterizes a unique form of African electronic funk. After self-releasing eight albums during this time, he became a born-again Christian and essentially denounced his whole music career. To add another level of intrigue, there are rumors of his having went to Russia to study filmmaking.
After recently being “discovered” by Damon Albarn, David Byrne and other powerful male white British musicians, his music has gotten a little more exposure. There is apparently a short documentary released by Noisey (affiliated with Vice) on Onyeabor and — someone — has been trying to write a biography on him for a year and a half – but no luck there.
David Byrne’s world-music focused record label Luaka Bop recently re-released a lot of Onyeabor’s music with his approval and enthusiasm, but was unable to secure event a statement from him much less a live performance. He did, however, make an audio appearance on the radio program BBC 6 Music in 2014, where he stated that he “only create[s] music that will help the world,” and sort of announced to his fans that more music is to come… We can only hope.
I was first introduced to Onyeabor through a friend who has a habit of finding precious things in small crannies in the music world; I initially had absolutely no idea if this music came from one of this friend’s obscure, hyper-modern Soundcloud-only DJs from this decade or if it was from the middle of last century. If I ever find myself in Enugu in Eastern Nigeria, I will be looking to make contact with the High Chief William Onyeabor, operator of a flour mill and proponent of the local Christian music scene.
see another track: “Good Name”