Nigerian musician and entrepreneur William Onyeabor is a bit of an intentional cipher biographically. He released eight albums and two singles on his own Wilfilms label between 1977 and 1985. After becoming a born-again Christian, he renounced his past and musical career.
Onyeabor became a successful enterpreneurial businessman and an enthusiastic booster of Nigeria's hotbed of Christian music scene. He was also crowned high chief of his native Igbo people of Enugu, one of the country's capitals of commerce. The nine tracks on this years-in-the-making compilation feature music drenched in analog synths, early drum machine sounds, and wah-wah, phase-shifted guitars and basses. It is all seductive, infectious, and timeless.
On set-opener "Body and Soul," Onyeabor co-opts tranced-out, Nigerian juju music, saturates it in slow Afro-funk, and weds it all to P-Funk's call-and-response lyric and chorus; after ten minutes, the effect is consciousness altering. "Atomic Bomb" is pure African disco with peeling, phased synths, fat basslines, drum loops, and strident, chunky guitars punctuated by Rhodes pianos; they create a spaced-out backdrop of nearly dubwise effects in this leisurely, insistently pulsing groover.
Who Is William Onyeabor? may not answer many biographical questions, but it does paint a superb portrait of the musician as a highly original creator and pioneer; it adds depth and dimension to the picture we have of African music during the era.