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

Suede: Night Thoughts (Warners)

Suede: Night Thoughts (Warners)

Although still identifiably Suede (yearning melodrama, emotional Bowie-esque ballads) since their return after a decade-long hiatus in 2013 with the unexpectedly sound Bloodsports, there's a... > Read more

BOB DYLAN: LIVE 1966; THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOL 4 (1998): Cheers and jeers

BOB DYLAN: LIVE 1966; THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOL 4 (1998): Cheers and jeers

Appropriately on the Columbia Legacy label, this double disc (Volume 4 in the on-going Bootleg Series) contains the whole of the famous "Royal Albert Hall" concert -- actually at the... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

The Band: Music from Big Pink

The Band: Music from Big Pink

Although it might be drawing a long bow to suggest alt.country started about here with this '68 album by The Band (with Bob Dylan within ear-shot), it certainly – along with Dylan's John... > Read more

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE INNOVATORS' QUESTIONNAIRE: Al Fraser

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE INNOVATORS' QUESTIONNAIRE: Al Fraser

Al Fraser has been described as the foremost taonga puoro player of his generation, that is someone who plays and explores the sounds of traditional Maori instruments. In recent years he has... > Read more