William Onyeabor!

I can't help it, I am in love with the music of William Onyeabor. You should also pine for the man who tickles the ivories, and here's why.

First of all, I know that most readers are thinking who the hell is William Onyeabor?, and that is a perfectly valid question. Onyeabor is every music dork's dream: a musical footnote plucked from obscurity by a few tastemakers and is now the toast of the town. It's perfect blog fodder for a guy like me and music fans searching for the next Searching for Sugar Man to talk about at record stores and over drinks. But William Onyeabor is a lot more than that. In some ways, he's a total pioneer.

I could explain it a lot more, but why do that when there's a fancy-schmancy video that can do it for me? Check this out, and meet me back here in 30 minutes or so...

Do you see? Are you excited yet? You really should be. Work with me here and match my enthusiasm.

I recently had a chance to check out the William Onyeabor Box Set released by Luaka Bop, and it is awesome. At first the notion of eight studio albums by a virtually unknown artist was a bit daunting, but I found that each album contained in the set (which comprises the entirety of Onyeabor's output) to be an interesting and compelling listen.
The sound is simple; some bass guitar, some electric guitar, maybe some drums. Female backing vocals? Sure, but use them sparingly. Short verses, often repeated throughout the song? Great! How about some horns? A dash here and there are fine. Oh yeah, one more thing: synths.

William Onyeabor loves him some synths. Layers and layers of majestic, state-of-the-art-in-1982 synthesizers. Some of them sound like something you'd hear on any New Wave record during the same period of time, while others sound like a Casio keyboard on demo mode in a K-Mart toy aisle. It's all happening at once and it's damn glorious.
There's a charm to what Onyeabor does: some of it is the most pristine funk you've never heard, while other parts strike me as an electro version of Jandek. It's a bizarre juxtaposition that makes his work beautiful and memorable. The songs are simple without being Mad Libs versions of pop songs. Each one clocks in at an average of around eight minutes, and the repetition of the songs lulls the listeners into a breakdance-filled trance that is a (to paraphrase Afrika Bambaataa) a soul sonic force to be reckoned with.

If I haven't convinced you to give this Nigerian home-recording, synthesizer-using, funkmaster a chance, I'm not sure what else I can do. Go check out William Onyeabor, either via the Box Set or the excellent compilation album Who Is William Onyeabor? on Luaka Bop records.

Do it!

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