William Onyeabor: Who is William Onyeabor? (Luaka Bop/Southbound)

 |   |  <1 min read

William Onyeabor: Why Go To War
William Onyeabor: Who is William Onyeabor? (Luaka Bop/Southbound)

In some circles Onyeabor's name is one to drop.

In part that might be because of this Nigerian funk and psychedelic soul master's obscurity (this is a hard-won collection of late Seventies to mid-Eighties songs he was reluctant to have reissued) as it is to his spaced-out grooves.

And although many of these deftly bantamweight pieces stretch past seven minutes and a few beyond 10, synth player Onyeabor deliberately avoided the overtly political urgency of fellow Nigerian Fela Kuti or the cold sweat of James Brown.

These are more slippery and elusive message songs (“good name is better than silver and gold” and “be you king or queen, rich or poor, one day you'll be lying dead” among them), but that is their charm.

Fans of his deft playing and morphing arrangements – which at times may remind you of the Doors' Ray Manzarek, any number of UK synth-pop bands as much as Afrobeat dialed down and Philly soul – include Damon Albarn, Martyn Ware of Human League, Canada's Daniel Snaith (aka Caribou) and Devendra Banhart.

Join these luminaries if supple, mercurial Afrobeat-framed head-nod disco-soul-funk -- by a palace-dwelling Nigerian high chief when he got impressively funk-footed -- appeals.

Warning, this is quietly addictive

Share It

Your Comments

Rosco - Jan 24, 2017

“be you king or queen, rich or poor, one day you'll be lying dead”
William Onyeabor (26 March 1946 – 16 January 2017)
Graham, forgive me if I pre-empt any upcoming considerations of Mr Onyeabor's life at Elsewhere.
Just love the ad-hocery of his music and the fact that in the modern concept of self he courted anonymity as much as most of the rest court celebrity.
The excellent film of his latter-day 'discovery' and subsequent investigations can be found here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GiaRp0M2fxE
His music was obviously highly individualistic, even at the time and place of concept and while it appears he never played live, his deconstructed keyboard noodlings give the impression he was really making a lot of it up as he went along.
And all the better for it.

post a comment

More from this section   Music articles index

Monsters of Folk: Monsters of Folk (Spunk)

Monsters of Folk: Monsters of Folk (Spunk)

Given who these people are -- Conor Oberst aka Bright Eyes, M Ward, and Jim James of My Morning Jacket (aka Yim Yames) -- you might be forgiven for thinking this is some kind of neo-folk meeting on... > Read more

Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses: Roadhouse Sun (Lost Highway)

Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses: Roadhouse Sun (Lost Highway)

American singer-songwriter Bingham's voice was so lived in and road-hardened on his debut Mescalito (a Best of Elsewhere 2008 album) that he sounded like a man far beyond his mid-20s. He... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

The Martin Drew Band w. Brian Smith: Child is Born (1977)

The Martin Drew Band w. Brian Smith: Child is Born (1977)

For many decades Martin Drew - who died in 2010 -- was the go-to drummer in Britain. A partial list, which he drew up himself, of the people he'd played with included Lee Konitz, Woody Herman,... > Read more

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, REMASTERED AND REISSUED (2014): All they had to do was act naturally

A HARD DAY'S NIGHT, REMASTERED AND REISSUED (2014): All they had to do was act naturally

At the same time as the Beatles were filming their first feature A Hard Day's Night, the once-great Elvis Presley was cranking out mindless Hollywood movies such as Fun in Acapulco and Kissin'... > Read more