Despite becoming relatively well known in the West since featuring on Luaka Bop’s World Psychedelic Classics and Strut’s Nigeria 70, compilations, William Onyeabor the man remains something of an enigma.
Did he study cinematography in ‘70s Russia? He did set up his own recording studio, Willfilms, where he produced and recorded all 8 of his albums. Was he crowned a High Chief in the former Biafran capital, Enugu? He does live there still. Did he become a born-again Christian and decide never to speak of his music?
He certainly hasn’t released an album since ’85, and by all accounts, he isn’t forthcoming with potential interviewers. Despite many attempts, a definitive biography has yet to materialise.
Although little is known about the Stetson wearing synth-wizard, his talent as a songwriter can’t be denied. Groovy rhythms and joyous synth-loops abound in his epic (often 10-13 minutes) songs. His smooth, sweet voice – and those of his excellent backing singers – often running contrary to cautionary, political lyrics, which are poignant without being preachy or overbearing.
Who is William Onyeabor? He is, without doubt, a Fantastic Man, and thanks to labels like Luaka Bop, his music is here to be discovered.