Synth-funk pioneer William Onyeabor has passed away. He was 70. The enigmatic musician rarely spoke to the press and quit music in the 1980s to focus on his business interests having self-released nine albums.
Luaka Bop, the New York label who tracked Onyeabor down and reissued his music in the form of 2013 album Who is William Onyeabor? announced the news of his death online this morning, January 18. The label paid tribute to “an extraordinary artist, businessman and visionary,” confirming he died in his sleep at 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 in a lengthy and touching statement. Onyeabor is survived by his wife, children, and four grandchildren.
Onyeabor released all of his music between 1977-1985. He recorded, pressed, and printed all of the records at his personal pressing plant, Wilfilms Limited, in south east Nigeria. He gave his last interview to the BBC in 2014 where he discussed his innovative music, plus the time he spent studying film in Russia, music production in Sweden, and law in the U.K. Check out that interview here.