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"Fantastic Man," a new short film from Alldayeveryday director Jake Sumner, investigates the elusive Nigerian musician William Onyeabor. With a career spanning eight self-released albums from the mid-1970s to 80s, Onyeabor has been mysterious for his distinct, prolific synth-based sound, and his means of self-production, as he recorded and pressed his albums at his own studio, Wilfilms Ltd. With synthesizers already being a rare luxury at the time, and especially in Africa, many rumors circulate about Onyeabor and his financial connections, even speculating Russian ties.
Despite what we may not know about him, William Onyeabor paved the way for a different kind of sound coming out of Africa in the 70s. Combining a Nigerian context to the emerging sounds of dance, electronic music and the futuristic avant-garde, it became clear that Onyeabor had a global-minded and forward-looking perspective to his musical genius. To this day, he is a man shrouded in mystery and myth — stories of his giant stature and grave disposition are much cited — but he continues to deny press opportunities to find out more about him. “Fantastic Man” pieces together the story of William Onyeabor, and seeks to track him down, leading us to his home in Enugu, East Nigeria, and finally allowing us a rare glimpse of Onyeabor himself.
Speaking to a cast of fans, such as Damon Albarn, Dan Snaith, Femi Kuti and Martyn Ware of Human League, “Fantastic Man” provides insightful interviews with his record label, and studio colleagues, to help us uncover more about the man behind the music. With these photographs being the first taken of Onyeabor in many years, here’s a unique and exclusive uncovering of a secretive Nigerian legend.