Luaka Bop pay tribute to “an extraordinary artist, businessman and visionary”.
William Onyeabor, the enigmatic Nigerian musician whose groundbreaking ‘70s synth-funk albums achieved global acclaim after being rediscovered and reissued in 2013, has died aged 70.
Luaka Bop, the label behind the retrospective compilation Who Is William Onyeabor?, announced his death on Facebook, saying he died peacefully in his sleep following a brief illness at his home in Enugu, Nigeria.
“It is with incredibly heavy hearts that we have to announce that the great Nigerian business leader and mythic music pioneer William Onyeabor has passed away at the age of 70,” wrote the label, describing him as “an extraordinary artist, businessman and visionary”.
Born in 1946, Onyeabor composed and self-released nine albums of groundbreaking synth-based funk between 1977-1985, which he recorded, pressed and printed at his personal pressing plant, Wilfilms Limited, in southeast Nigeria.
In the 1980s abandoned music to focus on his business pursuits and remained an enigmatic figure. It took Luaka Bop five years to track him down and persuade him to license his music for a reissue, 2013’s hugely successful Who is William Onyeabor?.
In 2014, a film documentary Fantastic Man delved into his story and the Atomic Bomb! Who is William Onyeabor? live shows saw special guests performing his music. Onyeabor refused most interview requests about his music, and was committed to his religion after becoming Born Again later in life.
Watch the documentary about Onyeabor, Fantastic Man.