William Onyeabor, the fantastic man
Innovative, controversial, avant-garde and mysterious, so was the late William Onyeabor.
I met him by chance because at one point I heard him in “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”, he appeared side by side with David Byrne whom I admire for being a true genius in several artistic fields, especially in the musical area. That same thing led me to think, “This Willy cannot be just any one when Byrne agrees to participate with him …”, so I gave it a shot and it turned out to be a sticky and funny song that got me a good smile that night. I already asked that this 2015 presentation be attached to this writing.
Jimmy Fallon commented on several interesting things about this man, at that time I read a bit about him and that is what I want to briefly comment on regarding why he is very interesting: Nigerian, always mysterious refusing to give interviews or commenting on his personal life, it is said to have studied in the old Soviet Union, that he was a lawyer, that he was crowned Grand Chief of the Enugu City in Nigeria. It is said that he has a brother who is a fugitive from justice in Barcelona. Personally I think it is idiotic to say that he is a fugitive and to know where he is but that is the rumor that makes this character more curious.
The important thing is that he started to create music around the 70’s, and from 77 to 85, he released a series of albums with a Funk influence but integrating synthesizers, so he created the funk-synth, and it’s incredible that he achieved it being that the synthesizers were only occupied at that time by a few musicians worldwide, and to have access to that tendency in that remote country and to make it known was practically unthinkable. But not for him and I identify with him by that attitude of not stopping with obstacles. What is even more outstanding is that he himself composed, recorded and printed his albums, and thanks to some of his lyrics in his songs that were known internationally, which spoke of social and political problems, helped Nigeria to emerge on the world stage, generating profound social changes.
Shortly thereafter he converted to Christianity and stopped making music until Byrne in 2013 “rescued him” from ostracism and formed an exclusive group to interpret the music of William, called Atomic Bomb, produced at the record company Luaka Bop. I mention this because Onyeabor’s condition to edit his material was that he would never be asked to give an interview nor will he be asked anything about his past life, which made him even more mysterious.
I requested to publish this post because he died at the beginning of this 2017. So rest in peace another great visionary of music.