William Onyeabor: Who Is William Onyeabor?

Compiled for the first time for a non-Nigerian audience, the tracks are sprawling funk jams, tightly played but lavish in length

The concept behind the compilation Who Is William Onyeabor? echoes Searching for Sugar Man, the documentary about South African fans tracking down a “mysterious” US singer-songwriter. In this case the direction of traffic is reversed, with David Byrne’s US record label Luaka Bop on a quest to locate Nigerian musician William Onyeabor, who scored several hits in his homeland in the 1980s before quitting music.

As with Searching for Sugar Man – in which the fans’ extravagant fantasies of their hero’s fate turn out to be comically wrong – Onyeabor’s present situation, living in eastern Nigeria having discovered evangelical Christianity, isn’t particularly compelling. More interesting is the music, compiled here for the first time for a non-Nigerian audience.

The tracks are sprawling funk jams, tightly played but lavish in length; through them winds the enticing sound of Onyeabor’s Moog synthesiser, performing catchy vamps (“Let’s Fall in Love”) and spacey solos (“Atomic Bomb”).

William Onyeabor

Who Is William Onyeabor?

(Luaka Bop)

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