Between 1978 and 1985, Nigerian artist William Onyeabor self-released eight albums that took a heavy synthesized futuristic approach to African funk and soul music. He suddenly became a born-again Christian, and refused to speak about himself or his music again. Little did he know, his music would influence several generations of musicians.
Three decades later, the first-ever documentary Fantastic Man explores Onyeabor's uniqueness and lasting impact through interviews and rare footage. Filmed in New York, London and Nigeria, several of Onyeabor's fans such as Damon Albarn (Gorillaz), Femi Kuti, Lagos-based record dealer DJ Patrick, and Nigerian radio personality DJ Tokumbo discuss Onyeabor's importance and strange character.
The documentary is one-step closer to discovering the true essence of William Onyeabor. Still, to this day, no one has made contact with him after his disappearance.
Watch the full 30 minute documentary here:
Last year Luaka Bop even tried to construct an accurate biography in time for their 2013 compilation release that reintroduced Onyeabor's work -- World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who is William Onyeabor.
It became a more difficult task than expected. After exploring for 18 months, the stories ranged from some saying he studied cinematography in the Soviet Union before returning to Nigeria to record music, to others saying he practiced law in Great Britain, or finally that he was a businessman in Nigeria. His life remains a mystery.
The compilation went on to make some top end-of-year lists, including NPR and TIME. There were even Onyeabor-related collaborations released with Dam-Funk, Devendra Banhart, Justin Strauss, Caribou, John Talabot and more.
This April, there's more Onyeabor music to look forward to. The label is partnering with Moog to commission reworking's of his music through a compilation titled William Onyeabor - What?!
It will feature tracks by Hot Chip, Justin Strauss & Bryan Mette, Daphni (Caribou), Javelin, David Terranova, Policy, Scientist and others.
For many of these tracks, artists used the limited-edition custom-designed Onyeabor synthesizers that Moog made last year.
William Onyeabor's legacy lives on as more stories continue to surface, hopefully leading to facts about what really happened to him before and after his music.