The Mysterious Melodic Musings of William Onyeabor


williamonyeaborWho is William Onyeabor?

No, really… Who is this guy? What’s his story? Go ‘head; try to find some info on his background. His Wikipedia page is short and not exactly what I would consider reliable, filled with “claims” and suppositions. Turns out, William Onyeabor’s genius talent has largely been contained in his homeland of Nigeria.

One thing does stand true, however. Luaka Bop wasn’t going to allow this Afrobeat Synth savant to slip into obscurity. For the past 5 years, the folks at Luaka Bop have been making every effort to find out more about the mysterious man and his 8-LP catalogue. Their efforts have finally come to fruition, and you can taste the excitement with the release of Who is William Onyeabor? next week.

Here’s the story — and it’s quite a story: After finally completing the licensing of Onyeabor’s music but years of attempting to find out more information about him with no progress, Luaka Bop finally decided to go to Onyeabor’s hometown of Enugu to meet the man. Slowly, it became clear why Onyeabor had been so difficult to compel. A devout man, Onyeabor put his life as a musician behind him after becoming a born-again Christian. Luaka Bop’s Eric Welles, who took the trip, says that Onyeabor would occasionally mention how he had “suffered” during his years as a musician, but didn’t elaborate on any details. In addition, Onyeabor is now a successful businessman in Enugu, running a semolina factory and affording himself the highest in luxuries: a three-story white mansion with a fountain on the outskirts of town, a 30-year old Mercedes parked out front, and even a heliport (although the label never got the chance to see it themselves). From Welles’ observations, it seemed that Onyeabor had no thirst for recognition, and perhaps without the need for further financial success, saw no reason to pursue the project.

Regardless, Luaka Bop forged ahead with this project, which took the form of a new installment of their World Psychedelic Classics and features 9 reissued tracks from Onyeabor’s catalogue. When word of the project came out, artists like Caribou, Damon Albarn, Justin Strauss, Four Tet, Joakim and others expressed their excitement and support at spreading William Onyeabor’s art to new fans around the world. You can look forward to more material expressions of this love and support soon…..

In the meantime, starting today, you can partake in William Onyeabor Week. Yes, you read that right: a full week of William Onyeabor festivities around the world in the form of 10 parties starting in Paris and ending in Lagos, with stops including New York, London and Oslo. Get the full schedule here and RSVP on William Onyeabor’s website to guarantee entry. If you can’t make it, it’s ok. You can stream the full album now on NPR First Listen, and own it when it hits stores on October 29.

Thanks to Luaka Bop’s relentless efforts, future generations will now be able to answer the question: Who is William Onyeabor?

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