WILLIAM ONYEABOR - Who Is William Onyeabor?
Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 01:00PM
soundscapes in Electronic, Reissue, Soul/Funk, World

While Luaka Bop recently stated that this compilation was five years in the making, it's been more like an eight-and-a-half-year stretch for anyone whose interest was initially piqued by the inclusion of "Better Change Your Mind" on the label's 2005 compilation of West African funk rarities, World Psychedelic Classics, Vol. 3: Love's A Real Thing. While the label's clearly been biding their time, since Who Is William Onyeabor? is still only Vol. 5 (with the Tim Maia anthology Nobody Can Live Forever the only other addition to the slim but immaculately-selected series in the interim), getting to finally hear such strange, synth-lead-laden Afro-disco dancefloor-filling workout warnings as "Atomic Bomb" and "Why Go To War" properly mastered at last has been well worth the wait. 

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 grails 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.

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—indeed, you can hear a moral, preacherly spirit on a lot of the tracks here." - NPR

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