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William Onyeabor

William Onyeabor was an iconic figure in the history of Nigerian pop music. He was considered the father of Nigerian electro Afro-funk. His biography has been shrouded in mystery due to his own refusal to discuss it or his music since becoming a born-again Christian in the middle of the 1980s and retiring to pursue a career as a businessman running his own flour mill.

What we do know is that he was born in Lagos, Nigeria in 1946. His musical education began early on the piano and organ. In the early '70s he reportedly attended university in Russia, studying cinematography. He returned to Lagos in the middle of the decade and started his own company, Wilfilms. Although he was recording during the era when Fela Kuti's Afro-beat ruled the music scene, and was no doubt influenced by it, Onyeabor's music followed its own idiosyncratic -- and infectious -- path.

He was fascinated by synthesizers, drum machines, and D.I.Y. recording technology. He began composing and recording a style of music that melded Nigerian folk forms, a love of repetition, and nods to Afro-beat and American R&B, disco, and funk, weaving them together in a spacy, futuristic brew that no one was making at the time; that style has influenced and been sampled and emulated by many. His eight albums were all self-released on his Wilfilms label.

His debut album, Crashes in Love, appeared in 1977. It featured four long tracks whose joyous rhythms and zigzagging electro funk backdrops were often underscored by militant political lyrics. In 1978, he released Atomic Bomb, whose title track proved to be a regional hit. As an album, Atomic Bomb proved to be a road map for all of his recordings to follow. Tomorrow was issued in 1979, Body & Soul (whose title track is regarded as a classic) in 1980, Great Lover in 1981, the angry Hypertension in 1982, the widely celebrated Good Name in 1983 (which consisted of just two long tracks), and finally, Anything You Sow in 1985.

After his conversion and retirement from making music, Onyeabor was crowned a High Chief in Enugu, the economic capital of Nigeria, where he has lived ever since, behind the walls of a palace in a wooded area. He is well known as a booster of the thriving Christian music scene there.

Onyeabor's music has only appeared on compilations in the 21st century and in limited-edition, unofficial LP runs. In 2013, David Byrne's Luaka Bop label released World Psychedelic Classics, Vol. 5: Who Is William Onyeabor? Years in the making, it was the first authoritative -- and reluctantly authorized -- compilation of his work. Later that year, Luaka Bop collaborated with Moog Music (which actually makes two William Onyeabor-brand synthesizers, the Little Phatty and the Moog Minitaur) in a various-artists remix project that kicked off on Record Store Day 2014 with the vinyl issue of What?! The set was issued in digital form in September. Onyeabor passed away in early 2017 at the age of 70. ~ Thom Jurek
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Atomic Bomb

1. Beautiful Baby

2. Better Change Your Mind

3. Atomic Bomb

4. Shame

5. I Need You All Life

x

Track List: William Onyeabor: Box Set Vol. 2

Disc 1

1. Something You Will Never Forget

2. Ride On Baby

3. Crashes In Love

4. Heaven And Hell

5. Jungle Gods

6. Beautiful Baby

7. Better Change Your Mind

8. Atomic Bomb

9. Shame

10. I Need You All Life

11. Tomorrow

12. Why Go To War

13. Love Me Now

Disc 2

1. Fantastic Man

2. Try And Try

3. Tell Me What You Want

4. Great Lover

5. Love Is Blind

6. I've Got Love

7. When The Going Is Smooth & Good

8. This Kind Of World

9. Anything You Sow

10. Everyday

11. The Way To Win Your Love

12. Poor Boy

13. Body And Soul

14. Believe In God

Disc 3

1. Good Name

2. Let's Fall In Love

3. Something You'll Never Forget (Version 2)

4. Ride On Baby (Version 2)

5. Crashes In Love (Version 2)

6. Heaven And Hell (Version 2)

7. The Moon And The Sun

8. Papa Na Mama

9. Hypertension

10. Politicians

x

Track List: Crashes in Love

1. Something You Will Never Forget

2. Ride on Baby

3. Crashes in Love

4. Heaven and Hell

5. Jungle Gods

x

Track List: Tomorrow

1. Tomorrow

2. Why Go to War

3. Love Me Now

4. Fantastic Man

5. Try and Try

x

Track List: Anything You Sow

1. When The Going Is Smooth & Good

2. This Kind Of World

3. Anything You Sow

4. Everyday

x

Track List: What?!

1. Atomic Bomb (William Onyeabor Vs. Hot Chip)

2. Do You Want A Man (Heaven & Hell Remix)

3. Body And Soul (Whatever/Whatever Mix)

4. Good Name (Remix)

5. Why Go To War (William Onyeabor Vs. Jd Twitch (Optimo))

6. Ye Ye (Remix Of When The Going Is Smooth And Good)

7. Heaven And Hell (Remix)

8. Body And Soul (Remix)

9. Something You Will Never Forget (Remix)

10. Body And Soul (Remix 2)

x

Track List: Something You Will Never Forget (Policy Remix)

1. Something You Will Never Forget (Policy Remix)

x

Track List: Body and Soul (Scientist Remix)

1. Body and Soul

x

Track List: World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Onyeabor?

1. Body And Soul

2. Atomic Bomb

3. Good Name

4. Something You Will Never Forget

5. Why Go To War

6. Love Is Blind

7. Heaven And Hell

8. Let's Fall In Love

9. Fantastic Man

x

Track List: Good Name

1. Good Name

x

Track List: Atomic Bomb (Single)

2. Atomic Bomb

Comments

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goke.odumosu
Since when is Enugu the economic capital of Nigeria? This guy must have not heard of Lagos.
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uber.patrck
Love to shag to this!
Report as inappropriate
dlambert489
This guy is funky as heck.
Report as inappropriate
guys you are too much
Report as inappropriate
Whao!
Report as inappropriate
Getting hooked now.
Report as inappropriate
Not too familiar with West African funk, but REALLY like it.

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