LUAKA BOP BECOMES THE FIRST RECORD LABEL TO SUCCESSFULLY LICENSE WILLIAM ONYEABOR, THE MYSTERIOUS, WIDELY BOOTLEGGED NIGERIAN ARTIST.
Luaka Bop will celebrate Its 25th anniversary with World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Onyeabor? and related collaborations with Dam-Funk, Devendra Banhart, Justin Strauss, Caribou, John Talabot and Others"The world might just be better off not hearing [Onyeabor's "Atomic Bomb"], which will burrow and propagate its seed exponentially by the second, into the hearts and souls of all humanity. It's the catchiest song I've ever heard; when it gets in my brain, I can't sleep...He's a mythical character from Nigeria."
Devendra Banhart in Uncut
"Anyone out there who is making music at the moment...will be quite excited by this..."
Damon Albarn on BBC Radio One
"LCD Soundsystem sounds like an American William Onyeabor."
"Talked to Luaka Bop about details of the William Onyeabor comp they are working on...Gonna blow minds!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"
"People are really going to freak out!"
Through its World Psychedelic Classics series, Luaka Bop has succeeded at introducing long-forgotten artists including Os Mutantes, Shuggie Otis and Tim Maia to the world at large.
William Onyeabor is as obscure as these other artists were before their Luaka Bop releases, although his recordings from the '70s and '80s are beloved by die-hard record collectors and artists such as Damon Albarn, Devendra Banhart, Four Tet and Caribou, to name a few. The music ranges from synth-heavy electronic dance music to Afrosoul with saxophones and female backup singers, to psychedelic funk with wah-wah guitar and fuzzy keyboards—and often combines all of these elements.
In spite of Onyeabor's cult following, Luaka Bop is the first label to successfully license his catalog, and on October 15 will release World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who Is William Onyeabor?
The vinyl release comprises 13 tracks spanning Onyeabor's body of work and will include artwork by John Akomfrah, Njideka Akunyili, Harrison Haynes, Dave Muller, Odili Donald Odita and Xaviera Simmons. The CD and digital releases will include nine tracks.
Who Is William Onyeabor? may be the most complicated, if also one of the richest, undertakings in Luaka Bop's (rarely straightforward) 25-year history. Following the eight albums Onyeabor self-released between 1978 and 1985, he became a Born-Again Christian, refusing ever to speak about himself or his music again. Various biographies can be found online. Some say he studied cinematography in the Soviet Union and returned to Nigeria in the mid-70s to start his own film company, Wilfilms. Some say he was a lawyer with a degree from a university in Great Britain. Others portray him as a businessman who for years worked on government contracts in Enugu, Nigeria.
By attempting to speak with Onyeabor himself, and by talking to people who seem to have firsthand knowledge, Luaka Bop has been trying to construct an accurate biography of him for the past 18 months...without success.
One thing that's undisputable is that Onyeabor's music is utterly unique and ahead of its time.