“I wonder where Apple pulled out this dang good funky music from” I thought the first time I saw the iPhone 7 Plus “Barbers” ad on TV.
It was during a NBA playoffs game and I usually try to get some work done in between time-outs so I did not pay much attention to the song then, but the beat felt groovy. The song sounded much better the second time I heard it and the voice was vaguely familiar, so I did as one does in this millennium and shazamed it.
Fantastic man – William Onyeabor.
I kicked myself mentally for having to wait for an iPhone ad to introduce me to such great music. I would have sworn I had a decent collection of the great Nigerian classics from the ’70s and ’80s, but God knows how this one escaped me. I am no stranger to William Onyeabor’s music, I grew up watching the music video of “When the Going is Smooth and Good” every other day on NTA Ibadan, but I knew little about the myth surrounding this legend until I googled him last week.
You can read about him here, here, here, and here. Fascinating stuff, I tell you. William Onyeabor was so ahead of his time in his music making that there is quite a bit of mystery surrounding where you he studied and developed his uber-impressive production skills. Moscow? Oxford? Enugu? He launched his music career in the ’70s, and he self-produced and released nine albums “of bewilderingly inventive synthesized afrobeat” in a home studio and pressing plant in Enugu, Nigeria.
He has such a huge following outside of Nigeria and his music has been performed by notable musicians all over the world. Not that I think he needed the validation, but peer-recognition and “imitation” is the ultimate form of respect. That said, I still do not know how I missed this performance of Fantastic Man by David Byrne and the Atomic Bomb Band on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.
He later became a Christian in 1985 and stopped recording music. He also refused to talk about his music career after his conversion – he said the songs did not glorify God – which further enhanced his enigma. Also, he never played music live! Time and space on this platform will not permit me to do justice to his story, but if you are intrigued, you can follow the links I shared earlier to learn more about this Nigerian legend. He was a successful businessman and excelled in other ventures he invested in after his music career. Sadly he passed away early this year on the 17th of January, at the age of 70.
He is undoubtedly a Nigerian legend with such a fascinating story, he was indeed a fantastic man.