William Onyeabor, legendary Nigerian musician, has died

The cult musician, best-known for his song When The Going is Smooth and Good, was 70 years old.

William Onyeabor, the pioneering Nigerian-born synth-funk musician, has died. The news was confirmed by his label, Luaka Bop, on Facebook this morning (18 January):

“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.”

The musician, who was born in 1946, would self-release nine albums between 1977-1985. Recorded, pressed and printed at his own pressing plant, it was a body of work that would go on to enjoy a cult following beyond Nigeria, with high profile fans including Damon Albarn, Caribou and Femi Kuti.

In 2013, Luaka Bop released a compilation of Onyeabor’s work, Who Is William Onyeabor?, a release which would further cement his enduring influence. In 2014, the documentary film Fantastic Man, produced by Noisey, would attempt to get to the heart of an artist who had come to be obscured in mystery.

William Onyeabor is survived by his wife, children, and four grandchildren. You can read the full statement from Luaka Bop here.

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