I came across the artist, William Onyeabor, this week thanks to Spotify’s ‘Friend Activity’. Scrolling over an album cover that caught my eye, I clicked on the opening track and was immediately taken with its sound. There was a self-assuredness, a raw confidence that had me hooked. The guy had a vision and it was something to behold.
One thing led to another and a quick Wikipedia search led me to a documentary on him from a few years back. The film is a fascinating look at the Nigerian funk scene that emerged during the 1970s. The backdrop for this musical explosion was far from auspicious. Following the end of English colonialism in 1960, the country fell into civil war as rival tribes vied for absolute power. While death and poverty were never far from the minds of the average Nigerian, the crisis spawned a curious outlet. Their answer? Make music.
The list of talent that seemingly came out of nowhere was unprecedented: The Funkees, The Hygrades, The Hykkers, The Apostles, The Silhouettes, Semi-Colon, Sonny Okosun, People Rock Outfit. But William Onyeabor never played by the rules. From 1977-1986, he self-released eight albums, almost one a year. In that time he never toured, self-promoted and was rarely seen around Enugu — his hometown. But his music spoke for itself and in time the world came calling with a recent compilation of his music ranking fourth on Time Magazine’s top albums of the year.
If you’re looking for some new grooves this weekend look no further. The man was the real deal.