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Who is William Onyeabor?
October 9, 2013 2:45 AM   Subscribe

William Onyeabor is, or was, a funk musician from Nigeria. He self-released 8 albums between 1978 and 1985 and then became a born-again Christian, refusing ever to speak about himself or his heavily rhythmic and synthesized music. Despite giving up music for a life in the church, Onyeabor can count Fourtet, Caribou and Damon Albarn as fans. The Luaka Bop record label is releasing World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Onyeabor? next month
posted by misterbee (19 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
Despite giving up music for a life in the church

Do we have any perspective now of whether he gave up all music for the church, or just his earlier styles? My experience in near-neighboring Ghana is that the churches are very, very musical. As such, if he gave up all music, I wonder what kind of church it is, or whether the story is more complex. (I read the wikipedia article and the Guardian blurb, but have not seen next month's release; it's still possible I missed something.)
posted by whatzit at 2:50 AM on October 9, 2013


Do we have any perspective now of whether he gave up all music for the church?

I read about him for the first time about 40 minutes ago in this article. Apparently he "...went to Sweden in the 1980s to buy record-manufacturing equipment, then invested his profits in food processing, bringing jobs to the region, which made him wealthy and highly respected."

Which doesn't really answer your question. I have no idea if he still played in the church; but perhaps more facts about the man will emerge after the release of the CD.
posted by misterbee at 3:02 AM on October 9, 2013


I love the picture on that Youtube video. He looks like a salvage-store-equipped Joe Zawinul.
posted by thelonius at 3:11 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm a refugee from the '70s who hates funk, and I'm a bit cold on the church, but this story is fascinating and I know many people who will dig it.
posted by Mezentian at 3:31 AM on October 9, 2013


Pity, the church needs more funk.
posted by Mario Speedwagon at 3:41 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thumbs up if murdoc sent you here
posted by Riton at 4:16 AM on October 9, 2013


He's well worth your time. Excellent music all around!
posted by OmieWise at 5:08 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Pity, the church needs more funk.

Paraphrasing a recent article by David Byrne, the original definition of, "funk" was, "the smell of sex". I'm not sure if a more funky church would make me wanna go, or continue to keep me far, far, away - or even if the two are compatible!
posted by alex_skazat at 5:14 AM on October 9, 2013


If you have any doubt about the compatibility of gospel and funk, you should get the two Good God! funk compilations from Numero Records. Even if you don't, you should go get them. They are fabulous. So is the Dimona record and the Apocryphal Hymns record, although the latter is not quite as funky.
posted by OmieWise at 5:34 AM on October 9, 2013


I'm a refugee from the '70s who hates funk

Good lord! I can't process this statement. For me it's like saying you hate water, or love, or food. Haha!

I remember that linked YouTube track from Nigeria 70. Beat-wise, it does indeed fall more heavily into the *funk* category, in the American sense of the term. When it comes to vintage Nigerian pop, I must say I prefer the stuff with more overtly home-grown aesthetic. Onyeabar's stuff was very solid, however: he did capture a feel. Kind of unremarkable voice he had, though, which is a bit of a drawback.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:36 AM on October 9, 2013


I'm a refugee from the '70s who hates funk

Good lord! I can't process this statement. For me it's like saying you hate water, or love, or food.


+1 aghast
posted by Wolof at 6:07 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Better Change Your Mind" is an incredible song; I first heard it on a previous World Psychedelic Classics comp, Love's A Real Thing: The Fuzzy Funky Sounds of West Africa, and it was a real highlight of a terrific disc. Great to know that they're putting a spotlight on Onyeabor!
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:10 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's a much less fuzzy rendition on YT lifted from Love's A Real Thing... Better Change Your Mind
posted by Mister Bijou at 6:24 AM on October 9, 2013


Better Change---and the whole Love's A Real Thing comp---are amazing. That second solo!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:20 AM on October 9, 2013


When the Going is Smooth and Good is a great song. Truth. I hope he's still making music.
posted by mike_bling at 7:57 AM on October 9, 2013


There was a bootleg reissue of 'Anything You Sow' a year or two ago--that's a great album.
posted by box at 8:32 AM on October 9, 2013


Found him on the Nigeria '70 compilation. Great stuff.
posted by destro at 8:51 AM on October 9, 2013


I used Better Change Your Mind as an intro to this DIY comedy short. Great song!
posted by PHINC at 4:31 PM on October 9, 2013


Here he is featured at NPR's First Listen. Lotsa tracks!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:59 AM on October 21, 2013


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