William Onyeabor dies aged 70
William Onyeabor, the Nigerian synth-funk pioneer, has died. An announcement was made by Luaka Bop, the record label founded by Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, via Onyeabor's Facebook page this morning. The announcement states that Onyeabor died peacefully in his sleep while at home in Enugu, Nigeria on January 16th, following a short illness.
An enigmatic figure whose work was largely unknown in the western world until recent years, Onyeabor was a leading light in the Nigerian funk scene that developed in the country during the late 1970s and early 1980s, releasing nine groundbreaking albums between 1977 and 1985.
Luaka Bop, who specialise in world music, helped bring Onyeabor's work to a wider audience with the 2013 release of Who Is William Onyeabor?, the fifth instalment in the label's World Psychedelic Classics series featuring a collection of his work, subsequently re-issuing several other albums from his back-catalogue.
Having become a born-again Christian in later life, Onyeabor had seemingly turned his back on the work of his youth and mostly shunned the media spotlight, usually denying interview requests. In his native Nigeria however he is something of a legendary figure, known as an industrialist as well as a musician and composer, who formerly owned a pressing plant in Enugu and was chairman of the local football club, The Enugu Rangers.
Our thoughts and condolences go out to his family and friends, RIP.