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William Onyeabor (1946–2017)

Image via Luaka Bop

Pioneering funk musician from Nigeria.

William Onyeabor, the Nigerian-born pioneering funk musician, died Monday, Jan. 16, 2017, according to multiple news sources. He was 70.

The death also was announced by Onyeabor’s record label, Luaka Bop. The world music-oriented label was founded by David Byrne, the former Talking Heads lead singer who also produces records.

“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,” the record label wrote in a Facebook post. “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.”

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Thirty years after leaving the music business in the mid-1980s to become a born-again Christian, Onyeabor, who was born March 29, 1946, became celebrated worldwide. In 2013, the compilation album “Who Is William Onyeabor?" helped cement his funk status.

In 2014, the music website Noisey released “Fantastic Man,” a documentary dedicated to Onyeabor’s music career. Also that year, the Atomic Bomb! Band, a supergroup whose members included Byrne and Money Mark, a principal collaborator of the Beastie Boys, played Onyeabor’s music on their world tour.

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