A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
I’m not sure that the fifth volume in Luaka Bop’s World Psychedelic Classics series actually answers the question its title poses, Who is William Onyeabor? They admit to having only a little info on the man: 1.) He is currently known as a High Chief in his hometown of Enugu, Nigeria. 2.) In the late ’70s and early ’80s he owned a production company called Wilfilms which released his own extraordinary music. 3.) He abandoned that music career and became a born again Christian sometime in the mid ’80s. That’s it. But the songs say so much more. I think the point of the title is that, despite the lack of biographical fact, everyone will come away from this album with a pretty compelling idea of just who William Onyeabor is.
The lyrics are proud, occasionally preachy, politically arch, and rather funny. But it’s the music that says the most. The nine tracks collected here might remind you a little of Fela Kuti’s heaviest afro-beat funk. They also harken back to the cheesiest synthesizer driven movie soundtracks of the ’80s. It adds up to something pretty unique. Songs like “Good Name” build from a couple simple riffs into huge synthesized orchestras of syncopation. Simpler tracks like “Fantastic Man” feature call and response melodies that will burrow into your brain. (The unlikely refrain of “Tell me, tell me, tell me, how do I look?/You look so good fantastic man!” has been running around my head for weeks now.)
We’ve got the album in our World Music section (781.62). Stop by and check it out. Don’t fret that the liner notes are light, there’s plenty of material on the CD itself to help fill-in the blanks.
Review by Matthew