William Onyeabor, the mysterious, mythic Nigerian synth-funk pioneer, died in his sleep Tuesday morning, as confirmed in a touching, lengthy statement from Luaka Bop.
"His surprising (no other African musician was using synthesizers then) recordings, his conscious lyrics and messages and his entrepreneurial ambitions were all way ahead of their time," Byrne wrote in the note.
Byrne also remembered working with Luaka Bop on reissuing his material for The Love is a Real Thing compilation, and looked back fondly on his participation in the Atomic Bomb project. "Those shows were some of the best times I've ever had on stage," he writes. "Onyeabor's music came to life—it was fresh and transcendent. Everyone felt it. We played it, but he created it.
At the end, he added, "Wherever he's gone, it's sure to be a place with a lot of heart and some killer grooves. Rest In Peace." Read the full letter here.