Originally published in the CJLO Magazine.
If you have no idea who William Onyeabor is, you're not alone. The information available about him is unfathomable at best, but what I can tell you is that he is a Nigerian man of mystery.
Rumoured to be a High Chief in Enugu whilst running a flour mill (yes, wheat!), Onyeabor all but abandoned the (tongue firmly placed in cheek) fame and fortune the music industry had to offer to find Jesus and open an Internet café. What he left behind in his journey into obscurity is the greatest musical gift (and most likely the compilation album of the year) for the rest of us to discover and to cherish.
In this fifth installment of Luaka Bop's World Psychedelic Classics series, Who Is William Onyeabor? is an honest and for true feast for the ears. Onyeabor's music is a captivating—and dare I say, revolutionary—interpretation of psychedelic, electro-funk, and disco mixed with West African jùjú style beats. Throughout the album you hear the fabulous female backing vocals that shine through clear as the stars in the sky. The tracks "Why Go to War" and "Something You'll Never Forget" reveal the fragile situation of the Nigerian civil war, yet William's careful weaving of crazy rhythms, Moog synth sounds, and messages of peace fill the room with hope and joy.
The CD version compiles 9 tracks from an eight-record body of work originally recorded and self-released by Onyeabor between 1977 and 1985. For serious music lovers, the vinyl release has 5 extra tracks pressed in a three-LP set with the cleanest, thickest wax that any record collector would trade anything to have spinning on their turntable. The set rests in a full-colour gatefold sleeve complete with lyrics sheet and liner notes written by NYU's very own Punk Professor Vivien Goldman.
Recommended tracks: "Body and Soul", "Atomic Bomb", "Why Go to War"
--Stephanie Dee hosts Champions of the Local Scene (Wednesdays, 6-7 PM) and Twee Time (Fridays, 8-9 pm). Follow her on Twitter @tweegirl.