Who Is William Onyeabor?


Last week I stumbled upon this song. The album version is fourteen minutes of african happiness. Trying to find more music and getting to know more about the artist I slipped down this well of barely reliable information dating back to the seventies.

Much like Jake Sumner from music label Luaka Bop. Trying to make a film about this not very well known nigerian musician, former cinematography student in russia, born again christian businessman, crowned a High Chief in Enugu who “just wants to talk about jesus” turned out to be much harder than they anticipated.

“We knew there was this four sentence amount of information about him,” remembers Yale, “but everywhere you look, and there’s a fair bit of information about him on the web, it was all the same four sentences, expressed in different ways”.

If you like this song and you’re not content with the rather concise Wikipedia entry of this currently influential african artist, the Vinyl Factory might be a good place to start your webquest: Are you here to see the chief?

Or you could sit back and watch the result of Jake Sumner’s quest. ‘Fantastic Man’ a documentary investigating Nigerian musician William Onyeabor, a man shrouded in mystery and myth.

“At the time EMI and Decca were still recording with eight tracks, so this guy had, he was well ahead of the major labels. Where did he get these synths from? Synthesizers were a luxury in africa at the time, anyone will tell you that. They were expensive, they needed a lot of maintenance. They were nothing that bands used because they were problematic.”

The film tells the story of a label’s attempt to track William down, speaking to fans such as Damon Albarn, Caribou and Femi Kuti and travelling to Nigeria to meet those who’ve worked with him in a bid to uncover the truth about his story.

music | William Onyeabor – When The Going Is Smooth And Good (10 hour version)
via | The Vinyl Factory

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