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Who Is William Onyeabor? (no. 4 Time Magazine Top Ten Albums Of 2013) - Music/Radio - Nairaland

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Who Is William Onyeabor? (no. 4 Time Magazine Top Ten Albums Of 2013) by vascey(m): 1:11pm On Dec 12, 2013
Hi guys!

Yesterday I read through the Time Top 10 albums of the year (http://entertainment.time.com/2013/12/04/arts-and-entertainment/slide/top-10-albums/). Original copies of this guy's album goes for as high as $500.

I was very surprised to see a Nigerian name in there. More surprising is the fact that I had never heard his name in my life. So since yesterday, I have been searching for information online about the Maestro. Apparently, I am not the only one doing so.

This compilation (Who is William Onyeabor) was released by Luaka Bop. See some of the comments about William Onyeabor below:

"Between the late-’70s and the mid-’80s, William Onyeabor released eight albums on his own Wilfilms label in Nigeria. Then he dropped out of public view altogether, and the peculiar genius of his percolating, synthesizer-centered grooves was lost to everyone but fanatical record collectors. This long-overdue career survey is riveting and unfailingly funky; you can hear the inspiration of Fela Kuti’s Afrobeat, and sounds that would turn into new wave a few years later, but Onyeabor mostly sounds like nobody else on the planet."

Read more: Top 10 Albums | Top 10 Everything of 2013 - Arts and Entertainment | TIME.com http://entertainment.time.com/2013/12/04/arts-and-entertainment/slide/top-10-albums/#ixzz2nGFqWCGd

"If Fela Kuti was a child of James Brown, fellow Nigerian William Onyeabor is something like the next-generation musical offspring of Parliament-Funkadelic. His songs are extended call-and-response disco-funk jams driven by the space-age sound of synthesizers and drum machines — very new tools when Onyeabor was recording in the late '70s and '80s, especially in Africa. After years of existing mainly as secret grail passed between electronic music DJs and other crate diggers, Onyeabor's handful of studio LPs have been licensed and boiled down to a killer compilation by Luaka Bop, the tastemaking world music label started by David Byrne.

So who IS William Onyeabor? Part of the album's conceit is that even the compilers don't fully know. The liner notes, by veteran British journalist Vivien Goldman, note that Onyeabor is a crowned chief in his hometown village of Enugu, Eastern Nigeria, where he lives in "a hidden palace in the woods" and is a booster of the local Christian music scene. But he essentially left his own music career in the '80s, in the wake of the recordings collected here, presumably when he became a born-again Christian."

Read more: http://www.npr.org/2013/10/20/236378375/first-listen-william-onyeabor-who-is-william-onyeabor

The other half of the question – No really, who is this dude? – is less fully resolved. Luaka Bop was able to secure Onyeabor’s permission to release the music, which culls nine tracks from his discography, but the man himself wasn’t keen on addressing the many rumors that have orbited his covert star. Some reports suggest he became a filmmaker in Russia, a businessman in Sweden, or both. What’s fairly clear is that he turned his back on music, devoting his focus solely to Christianity. The label’s endeavor to release Onyeabor’s music took ten years, and their quest to pin the man down often revealed more questions than answers. But in the end there is some beauty to that: We have only these recordings to know Onyeabor by, and with repeated listens the mystery becomes less a series of unanswered queries and something more like a sermon. words/ j woodbury


“… irrestible…” – The Times

“…ridiculous!” – Gilles Peterson
“…a fantastic man…” – The Wire
“.. comète musicale…” – Liberation
“… a killer party mix!” – Rolling Stone
“…completely exhilarating…” – Telerama
“… gripping stuff! ” – The Arts Desk (NEW!)
“8/10…truly before his time.” – Clash, 8/10
“…simply phenomenal…” – Bob Boilen, NPR
“…something new, finally.” - La Repubblica
★★★★ - “…a major discovery…” – Record Collector
“…absolutely fabulous!” – Lauren Laverne, BBC Radio 6
★★★★- “…An explosion of psych-rock and synth-pop…” Metro
“8/10…a devastating blend of funk tension and pro slipperiness…” – Uncut
“…a mind-blowing-one of-a-kind-synth-pop jam…” – Dorian Lynsky, Q Magazine
“…hypnotic slice of psych-synthy Afro-funk desserves to cause mainstream tremors” - Metro
“…the one thing beyond doubt, is how wonderful the music is.” – Alex Petridis, The Guardian
“…incredible fireworks celebrating dance , peace and love.This disc is a small miracle.” L’Express
★★★★ “…after more than 30 years his recordings speak for themselves” – David Hutcheon, Mojo
“…searing synth-funk and proto dance floor ear-worms, unlike anything or anyone else…” – The Vinyl Factory
★★★1/2 (out of 4)”… kinetic marvel, which shimmers and shakes with improvisational glee…” Philly.com


"Some biographies claim that he studied cinematography in Russia, returning to Nigeria in the 1970s to start his own Wilfilms music label and to set up a recording and production studio. He was later crowned a High Chief in Enugu, where he still lives as a businessman working on government contracts and running his own flour mill.[4] According to the Luaka Bop record label, Onyeabor "self-released 8 albums between 1978 and 1985 and then became a born-again Christian, refusing ever to speak about himself or his music again....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."


Others: http://luakabop.com/onyeabor/

Re: Who Is William Onyeabor? (no. 4 Time Magazine Top Ten Albums Of 2013) by vascey(m): 1:12pm On Dec 12, 2013
MOD please could you send to front page to know if we can find out about this Nigerian enigma.
Re: Who Is William Onyeabor? (no. 4 Time Magazine Top Ten Albums Of 2013) by vascey(m): 1:17pm On Dec 12, 2013
In 2005, David Byrne’s globe-trotting label Luaka Bop—after investigating the sounds of Brazil, Cuba, and the like—released World Psychedelic Classics 3: Love's A Real Thing - The Funky Fuzzy Sounds Of West Africa. Along with the likes of the breathtaking Éthiopiques series and Strut’s relentlessly funky Nigeria 70 set from 2001, the compilation helped spur a revival in African music from the continent’s “Golden Age,” that time in the 1960s and 70s when European imperialism was for the most part eradicated, artists and culture flourished, and before many of these nations’ leaders turned despotic. That renaissance has continued on into the present moment, from the work of imprints like Analog Africa, Soundway, and Awesome Tapes from Africa (to name just a few of many active reissue labels), even as Africa’s embarrassment of riches has turned into a glut of sorts, a decidedly First World problem to have.

In those intervening years, Luaka Bop tried with little success to track down William Onyeabor, whose “Better Change Your Mind” appeared on both their comp and the Nigeria 70 set. Little info could be found about the man, though the reports varied wildly: he studied cinematography in Russia, he self-financed his own movie, he was a titan of industry in his native Nigeria with a flour mill, he had business interests in Sweden. About the only thing for certain was that Onyeabor self-released eight albums from 1977-1985 at an annual report clip, before disavowing music for Christianity. Since then, Onyeabor’s music has been bootlegged while original copies can go for upwards of $500 online.

Previous decades have led to re-appraisals of the likes of King Sunny Ade, Ali Farka Touré, Youssou N’Dour, Salif Keita, and Fela Kuti, and Luaka Bop’s handy new set Who is William Onyeabor? (the first legitimate reissue of his music) posits the man for a 21st century audience, where his sonic sensibilities seem best suited. While those aforementioned African icons gained renown on the world music circuit for their guitar work, their distinct voices, their rhythmic innovations, Onyeabor favored an instrument rarely heard from the African Diaspora, the analog synthesizer.

An array of keyboards can be seen on the cover of Onyeabor’s final album Anything You Sow and across the man's discography, they evolve from serving as accompaniment to becoming the primary instrument. “Something You Will Never Forget” features a crisp backbeat, Afrobeat horn skronk, and Onyeabor’s organ in roller rink mode, the most conventional song on the set. But on opener “Body and Soul” (a longtime dancefloor staple) Onyeabor tickles the keys then warps them until they sound like an inter-dimensional portal in the midst of the song’s slinking groove. It happens again five minutes into his biggest “hit,” “Atomic Bomb” a heavily wah-wah’d keyboard doing its best Bernie Worrell when-the-Mothership-lands impression.

All but one of the comp’s nine tracks comes in under six minutes (with three topping the 10-minute mark), and most of the songs are structured similarly, at times making the set feel same-y. A steady, boxy drum rhythm (some utilizing drum machine), smatterings of guitar, a bevy of female back-up singers doing call and responses with Onyeabor’s naïf yet endearing English lyrics, but central to each track is Onyeabor’s synth work. The closest comparison to this set might be that of Indian guitarist-turned synth enthusiast Charanjit Singh’s 1982 album Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat, which no doubt sounded like a rinky-dink curio during its time, but in hindsight was revealed to have anticipated acid and techno by a number of years so that by the time of its reissue it sounded downright revelatory to 21st century listeners. Similarly, Onyeabor’s strange use of the synthesizer as embellishment presages that of any number of outsider electronic music producers by three decades. It’s little wonder that the likes of Four Tet, James Holden, Caribou and more have already been buzzing with their accolades for the man and the weird funk of “Fantastic Man” could easily be mistaken for a modern Dam-Funk track.

Whereas Sunny Ade’s singular guitar tone could be as mighty and rippling as a river and Fela Kuti and Tony Allen’s Afrobeat was a force of nature, Onyeabor’s music often times sounds warbling and flimsy, economical and tinny. Some of this might come from the set drawing on vinyl sources rather than master tapes, but knowing of the man’s imminent Christian conversion, it’s not a stretch to see parallels between Onyeabor’s organ tone and those of private-pressed religious records. Onyeabor’s sound is as homemade and insular as anything on last year’s Personal Space compilation, as strange and extraterrestrial as that of Sun Ra. Who is William Onyeabor? doesn't provide any answers its own posited question, but the mystery and wonder of the man’s music remains intact.

Re: Who Is William Onyeabor? (no. 4 Time Magazine Top Ten Albums Of 2013) by vascey(m): 1:27pm On Dec 12, 2013
Re: Who Is William Onyeabor? (no. 4 Time Magazine Top Ten Albums Of 2013) by majamajic(m): 10:09pm On Aug 17, 2014
As a kid I was in holidays at enugu during mid 80's, his music 'higher higher' was a hit .

I think he is from enugu state. The Doves and Joe Nez gave him a good run.
Re: Who Is William Onyeabor? (no. 4 Time Magazine Top Ten Albums Of 2013) by DaVinChiSam(m): 5:46am On Aug 19, 2014

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