William Onyeabor - Who Is William Onyeabor

William Onyeabor - Who Is William Onyeabor

Verdict: 4/5

Luaka Bop


LP 0079


October 2013

Written By

Dragos Rusu


February 3, 2014

My man Chris was insisting the other day that I should check this new compilation released on Luaka Bop record label (praise to David Byrne and Yale Evelev for 20-and-counting years of amazing music), focused on the Nigerian film composer, musician and successful businessman working on government contracts and owner of his own flour mill, William Onyeabor.

Before dedicating an entire full release concentrated on Onyeabor’s music, Luaka Bop previously featured the incredible psychedelic funk track ''Better Change Your Mind'' on the third part of the 'World Psychedelic Classics' series ('Love's A Real Thing - The Funky Fuzzy Sounds Of West Africa'). So it’s no wonder that Strut also issued this track on its 2001 compilation, '''Nigeria 70: The Definitive Story of 1970's Funky Lagos'''.

This anthology of more than ten unheard Onyeabor songs digs deep into the past of this great and unknown musician’s work. Browsing through the compilation in no particular order, there might be a probability to skip through some tracks random and arrive to ‘’ When The Going Is Smooth And Good’’ (‘’many many people will be your friends, But when the going becomes tough, many, many of them will run away’’). Electronic dance floor maniaks would then easily recognize the sampled twisted synths on the notorious ''Ye Ye'' track, made by Caribou’s maverick Dan Snaith.

Cheerful male and female vocals combine unflawed electronic funk rhythms and delirious psych contours, creating a hell of a listening experience. From the attractive grooves arisen by ''Body and Soul'', to the beautiful harmonies from ''Atomic Bomb'', from the pumpin disco injection of ''Good Name'' (a killer one on the dance floor!) to the sick chords of the peace manifesto ''Why Go to War?'' you completely change your mood throughout the listening.

This gentleman really got the groove right and truthful, with 8 self-released albums (between 1978 and 1985) and then becoming a born-again Christian and refusing ever to speak about himself or his music again. Almost daily I wonder what would have been if so many of this great record labels, such as Luaka Bop, had never existed. How would a dystopian world of music have sounded like and how would it have affected the living people?

So who is, in fact, mister William Onyeabor? According to the Luaka Bop record label, ''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." The answer to this - somehow - rhetorical and intriguing question floats on every listener’s lips, but it is as diverse as everyone’s perception, so it doesn’t really come out to make a point. And how could it, actually? For instance, I ran 10 kilometers continuously listening to this album and I still find it ineffable to really describe the music that blooms from it. This is, by far, one of the best unearthing music from 2013, not only if we insinuate the afrobeat/electronic old recordings, but also a more global context of music.


A1. Body And Soul
A2. Atomic Bomb
B1. Good Name
B2. Something You Will Never Forget
C1. Why Go To War
C2. Love Is Blind
D1. Heaven And Hell
D2. Let's Fall In Love
D3. Fantastic Man
E1. The Way To Win Your Love
E2. Love Me Now
E3. Jungle Gods
F1. When The Going Is Smooth And Good
F2. Untitled

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