David Byrne, Devonte Hynes & More to Perform 'ATOMIC BOMB!' in Brooklyn, L.A. & San Francisco Next Month
"ATOMIC BOMB! Who is William Onyeabor?," in which all-star lineup performs the elusive Nigerian artist's futuristic, synth-heavy electronic music from the 1970s and '80s, comes to the U.S. May 2 - 6 following tremendously acclaimed UK performances that took place April 1 at the Barbican in London and April 2 at Colston Hall in Bristol. The Stateside dates: May 2 & 3 at BAM in Brooklyn (U.S. premiere, co-presented by BAM, Luaka Bop and Red Bull Music Academy), May 6 at the Warfield in San Francisco, and May 8 at the Greek in Los Angeles, sponsored by KCRW. The events mark the first time Onyeabor's music is being performed live.
Performing at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House, a highlight of a month-long, citywide music festival from Red Bull Music Academy, will be David Byrne, Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip), Money Mark, Sinkane, Pat Mahoney (LCD Soundsystem), Luke Jenner (The Rapture), the legendary Lijadu Sisters of Nigeria, in their first live performance in 30 years, and saxophonist Joshua Redman. The same roster of musicians, plus Kele Okereke (Bloc Party) and minus Luke Jenner, will perform May 6 in San Francisco and May 8 in Los Angeles. (Okereke will not perform at BAM as previously announced; Devonté Hynes will replace him.
The UK concerts, which were sold out months in advance and had the seated audience dancing in their chairs, garnered four- or five-star reviews from The Times, The Independent, The Evening Standard and The Financial Times, and rave reviews from numerous music magazines.
William Onyeabor self-released eight nearly impossible-to-find albums between 1978 and 1985 in Nigeria, then became Born-Again Christian, turned his back on his work, and refused to speak about it for nearly three decades. Last year, after a five year odyssey to track down Onyeabor and secure his permission to release his music, Luaka Bop label issued World Psychedelic Classics 5: Who is William Onyeabor? The album was named one of Time magazine's top ten albums of the year and Pitchfork's Best Reissue of the Year 2013.
Even after the release of Who Is William Onyeabor?, the artist's life story remains a mystery-and he seems content, perhaps even determined, to keep it that way. Various biographies can be found online. Some say he studied cinematography in the Soviet Union and returned to Nigeria in the mid-70s to start his own film company, Wilfilms. Some say he was a lawyer with a degree from a university in Great Britain. Others portray him as a businessman who for years worked on government contracts in Enugu, Nigeria. By attempting to ask Onyeabor himself, and by speaking with various others, Luaka Bop tried for 18 months to construct an accurate biography in time for their October 2013 album release-without success.
The recently released short documentary Fantastic Man-filmed in New York, London and Nigeria-illuminates the Onyeabor myth via interviews with Western and African artists, record collectors, industry, radio deejays and Luaka Bop's Yale Evelev and Eric Welles Nystrom.