So sad to hear about William Onyeabor’s passing today. What an incredible musical visionary. His story is a mystery as William Onyeabor preferred to stay out of the limelight and refused requests for all interviews. Big thanks for Luaka Bop records for helping to bring this great music into the collective global music consciousness.
From Luaka Bop’s website:
William Onyeabor (March 26, 1946 – January 16, 2017)
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. He died peacefully in his sleep following a brief illness, at his home in Enugu, Nigeria. An extraordinary artist, businessman and visionary, Mr. Onyeabor composed and self-released 9 brilliant albums of groundbreaking electronic-funk from 1977-1985, which he recorded, pressed and printed at Wilfilms Limited—his personal pressing plant in southeast Nigeria.
For people in his hometown of Enugu, Nigeria, Mr. Onyeabor was simply referred to as “The Chief”. He was known for having created many opportunities for the people in his community. In his early 30s, he traveled the world to study record manufacturing, so that he could build, “the greatest record manufacturing business in all of West Africa.” After those successful years as an artist and record label President in the 1980’s, he opened a flour mill and food processing business. In 1987 these new business ventures saw him awarded West African Industrialist of the Year—just two years after the release of his most successful song “When The Going is Smooth and Good”, and what should have been the height of his musical career. He was given the honorary title “Justice of the Peace”—a local judicial position elected by the community to provide independent legal ruling. In the early 1990’s, he became the President of Enugu’s Musician’s Union and Chairman of the city’s local football team, The Enugu Rangers. Despite all of these extraordinary achievements, his biography was always shrouded in mystery—some claimed he had studied filmmaking in the Soviet Union, while others placed him in France or Great Britain. To his great amusement (and ours too for that matter), this mythic image was at times so deeply ingrained, that we often encountered people who were convinced that he didn’t actually exist. Whenever we shared this with him, or would ask him a question about his past, he would just smile and say, “I only want to speak about God.”
After five long years of painstaking waiting, negotiating and intense research, we were finally able to release “Who is William Onyeabor?” in 2013 and his music and story took the world by storm. The release was featured in major newspapers, radio and television stations around the world. Time Magazine listed him as number 4 on a shortlist of that year’s best albums. In 2014, the film documentary “Fantastic Man” followed, as well as the “Atomic Bomb! Who is William Onyeabor?” live shows, which travelled to the most regarded festivals and music venues worldwide-starring over 50 special guests from many diverse generations, genres and backgrounds.
Still, William Onyeabor would never speak about himself and for a long time refused any of the many interview requests that came his way. For an artist that had never performed live in his entire life, he repeatedly, and very sadly, would always decline our invitations to take part in any of the joyous celebrations that were created in his honor. Having become Born Again in the latter part of life, he had turned his back on the music from the earlier part of his life.
As one of the absolutely smartest people we ever encountered—William Onyeabor was always in charge, whatever the situation may be (and even though he was living in a fairly isolated part of rural West Africa). As can be heard in many of his songs, he looked at the world from a bird’s eye view. He would watch American, Chinese and European news simultaneously, so he could learn about the different points of view from around the world. In his later years, he was still conducting business as usual. Whenever we visited him in Nigeria, he welcomed us warmly into his home. Whether it be at his palace outside of Enugu or via crackly phone lines to America, he always made us laugh. As is also very evident in his songwriting—another example of his true intellect and originality—he had the greatest sense of humor. His life and accomplishments will never cease to astonish us. More than anything, and still to this very day, his music continues to live on—nearly 40 years after it was originally released.
Chief William Ezechukwu Onyeabor is survived by his wife, children, and four grandchildren. We would like to send our deepest condolences to his family and thank each and every one of you who has helped share the love for his music around the world.
In the short and wonderfully intense nine years that we came to know him, he changed our lives in many ways. If he hasn’t yet, we hope he will affect you too, one day.
Eric, Paul & Yale, Luaka Bop
David Bowie’s absence in this world is still felt. The void for many is unmistakeable. That being said, how great is it that his last work is so strong! I’m relieved that the punctuation on such a glorious career was something so intense and challenging, something that even months later after its release, I can’t stop listening to it. Thank you David Bowie!
Newly signed to SubPop,The Gotobeds performed at the Soda Bar on November 9th promoting their 2016 release with the parodic title Blood//Sugar//Secs//Traffic. Young and looking like permanent residents of a tour van, the band is upbeat and energetic though it’s not hard to imagine these guys stumbling out of that hot boxed van with beer bottles tumbling out seconds before taking the stage.
First-timers in San Diego, The Gotobeds’ are a Post-punk quartet sounding somewhat like the Strokes with a blend of more unconventional indie rock and noise rock. The band’s various tempo changes and skilled guitar dueling that provides a cool stereo effect, were at times reminiscent of San Diego’s own indie rock band No Knife.
Twice throughout the show, the band partook in a seemingly ceremonial round of mid-set tequila shots. A third proposition by chatty singer/guitarist Eli Kason, possibly nervous due to the intimate setting of the venue, was refused by the rest of the band and the music continued. The show, at times, felt more like a frat party than a rock show, but it was a good show nonetheless with plenty of energy, only a minimal amount of pretentiousness, and enough tequila to make The Gotobeds go to bed early.
Kason, who’s showmanship sometimes border lined with showboating, proceeded to wrap his entire head in masking tape for the finale, seemingly having nothing more to say. An appropriate ending, if anything, for such an eccentric performance. As the ringing subsides from the Soda Bar patrons’ ears, the band continues their North American tour and Blood//Sugar//Secs//Traffic sits on the shelves awaiting your hard-earned dollar bills.
This is not one to be missed! Mouse on the Keys are a trio from Japan that blends math rock with, jazz and classical piano aesthetics. Really interesting and inventive stuff. Hard to describe but easy to enjoy! Two of the members were from the well-known Tokyo-based band Nine Days Wonder, who were active in the 1990s and recently payed a reunion show. Mouse on the Keys are doing their first tour of the United States with LITE (also from Japan) after successful runs Europe and Asia. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while. See you there!From the Mouse on the Keys Website:
“A blend of minimal phrased piano and dynamic drumming.
The pursuit of a live experience composed of visual and audio expression. Formed in 2006, with elements of jazz, funk, post‐rock and electronic music, Mouse on the Keys fits into a genre of their own.
The trio consists of two former members of the influential Japanese underground band Nine Days Wonder, Akira Kawasaki and Atsushi Kiyota.
They teamed up with Daisuke Niitome, who has played drums as well as composed music for countless jazz‐funk and hip hop bands. Their unique sound, comprising two pianos, two keyboards and drums, continue to stand at the forefront of the Japanese indie scene.”
It would be deceptive to describe Mats Gustafsson’s Piano Mating simply as a piece of music, when the listening experience more resembles the construction of a tapestry made of electric threads in a constant flux of motion and color; If you squint your mind’s eye, you can make out that the image Gustafsson has presented is some kind of extraterrestrial baptism, where a ritualistic drone is mingled with a tense wonder of the unfamiliar.
At the prompting of Blue Tapes and X-Ray Records to create an album with an instrument he had never recorded with, Gustafsson uncovered a Dubreq Piano Mate, one of the more obscure devices in the synthesizer family, to create this two-track, 35 minute work.
The tones fade into perspective slowly, squirming microtonally around eachother to create modulations that range from a friendly pulsation to an almost seasick grinding. As each new pitch is introduced, it punctures the previous layer and then folds itself back in to create a new dimension in the fabric of sound until fairly quickly they become a nebula of sound slowly climbing in timbre and pitch. Side A travels between whirling tensions and gratifying harmony before the layers begin to drop out abruptly and expose individual elements. Side B is a churning ocean of low harmonic richness, where through repetition the throbbing drones almost begin to disappear to reveal the vast and desolate space created by the slow build of the synthesizer sound mass.
I suppose like any extraterrestrial baptismal tapestry (don’t act like it’s your first), Piano Mating provides a pseudo-spiritual psychedelia with a distinctive coarseness that make the album a find as rare and exciting as the Dubreq Piano Mate itself.
In a culture obsessed with content, saturation, and continual exposure, it’s rare to find artists who prefer to lurk outside of the public eye. Thomas Pynchon is perhaps the most notable contemporary recluse—a virtually faceless figure who occasionally creeps out of hiding to offer up an elaborate novel steeped in history and warped by imagination—but for the crate digging audiophiles, guitar mystics, and third-eye visionaries, Sweden’s enigmatic rock outfit GOAT may qualify as the greatest modern pop-culture mystery. Who are these masked musicians? Are they truly members of a remote tribe in the Arctic community of Korpilombolo? Are their songs actually a part of their communal heritage, passed down through generations in their isolated homeland? Their third studio full-length,Requiem, offers more questions than answers, but much like any of Pynchon’s knotty yarns, the reward is not in the untangling but in the journey through the labyrinth.
Western exports may have dominated the consciousness of international rock fans for the entirety of the 20th century, but our increasing global awareness has unearthed a treasure trove of transcendental grooves and spellbinding riffage from exotic and remote corners of the planet. GOAT’s previous albums World Music and Commune were perfect testaments to this heightened awareness, with Silk Road psychedelia, desert blues, and Third World pop all serving as governing forces within the band’s sound. But GOAT’s strange amalgam isn’t some cheap game of cultural appropriation—it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact origins of the elusive group’s sound. Whether or not the enigmatic collective truly claims Korpilombolo as their home, the fact that they pledge allegiance to a spot on the periphery of our maps—a spot so distant and off the grid that it feels fictitious—bolsters the nomadic quality of their sonic explorations. With Requiem, GOAT continues to rock and write to a beat beholden to no nation, no state.
GOAT’s only outright declaration for Requiem is that it is their “folk” album. For the initiated, such a proclamation seems almost unnecessary—GOAT has always vacillated between electrified exuberance and unplugged tribalist hymns. But Requiem does find GOAT focusing more on their subdued bucolic ritualism than on the psilocybin freakouts. Opening tracks “Djorolen/Union of Sun and Moon” and “I Sing in Silence” both set the stage for GOAT’s rustic approach, with the guitars laying down simple chord progressions and pan flute providing the primary hooks. From those very first notes, the piper leads us down a path where GOAT relies less on acidic guitar lines and more on sun-bleached psych-pop. “Trouble in the Streets” carries all the jubilance of classic African highlife. “Try My Robe” bares the group’s signature ceremonial hip-shaking rhythms, but eschews guitar for a mandolin line that would make John Paul Jones proud. But GOAT hasn’t completely foregone their fiery charms—tracks like “All-Seeing Eye” and “Goatfuzz” conjure the sultry heathen pulsations that ensnared us on their previous albums.
Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of Requiem comes with the closing track “Ubuntu”. The song is little more than a melodic delay-driven electric piano line until we hear the refrain from “Diarabi”—the first song on their first album—sneak into the mix. It creates a kind of musical ouroboros—an infinite cycle of reflection and rejuvenation, death and rebirth. Much like fellow recluse Pynchon, GOAT doesn’t offer up any explanations for their strange trajectories. But like Pynchon, they have managed to create a world of their own where the line between truth and fiction is so obscured that all you can do is bask in their cryptic genius.
Years back I had the good fortune to travel with my band No Knife to Japan. We ended up going twice. Both tours were amazing and this was in large part due to our Japanese hosts Nine Days Wonder. This band was sort of like our Japanese counter part, brothers from another mother. This was a band that not only were some of the truly most kind people I’d ever met, but they were a creative, ferocious and inspiring post-punk band. The group consisted of 2 guitars, bass, drums and keyboards. Kensuke handled the main vocal duties, while Teru added stellar backup singing contributions. Our tours together were a musical highpoint for me of 25 years of traveling around. I’m always grateful for these gents and their friends, who quickly became our close friends as well.
Since the band’s dissolution in the mid 2000’s, drummer Akira and Keyboardist Kiyo have gone on to create the unique and challenging Mouse on the Keys. Mouse on the Keys will make it’s San Diego debut in the coming months. Keep on the look out for a preview for that West-Coast US tour.
Here’s some footage from a Tokyo show in 2002.
Monday (8/1) – Lou’s Records on the 101 features live music and food trucks for a good cause.
We actually haven’t heard which bands are playing this event, but doesn’t it sound like a good way to spend a Monday evening in Leucadi, helping save animals (since the event is being put on by Lou’s neighbor The Coastal Animal Shelter) while eating fun food and listening to live music with your family. Also, there is going to be a beer garden this year put on by Saint Archer Brewery. Stop in and buy a CD at Lou’s as well.
Wednesday (8/3) – Local Encinitas band Second Cousins treating us all to a free show at the Cardiff Library 7pm – 8pm
Second Cousins have been out playing this summer again, and if you haven’t been able to make it to one of their later shows this is a great chance to hop over after work and check them out. Perfect venue and act to bring your kids and even your music loving mother-in-law. Seriously, these guys are first rate musicians (check out our feature from 2014)