Celebrating Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda at Knockdown Center

Event detail at The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, at Knockdown Center, 52-19 Flushing Ave. in Maspeth, NY, US on 21 May 2017.

Event detail at The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, at Knockdown Center.

This past Sunday, we celebrated the life, music and spirit of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitanda, with members of her beloved family and members of her ashram, The Ashram Community Singers. It was such a beautiful day!

Together with Red Bull Music Academy and their incredibly hard working team and set designers, we’ve spent the last few months trying to create an environment that — in the most loving and respectful way — could extend the feeling of when you visit Alice’s wonderful ashram in LA.

The Sai Anantam Singers perform at The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, at Knockdown Center, 52-19 Flushing Ave. in Maspeth, NY, US on 21 May 2017.

The Sai Anantam Singers perform at The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, at Knockdown Center.

After many months, and seemingly just over night, the former door factory known as the Knockdown Center in Queens was transformed into a glowing sanctuary. Golden sheer curtains were flickering in the wind. There were beautiful flower arrangements, and large paintings and portraits of Alice throughout the venue. There were 800 yellow pillows (from India!) and a thick royal, blue carpet covering 20,000 square feet of the floor. When guests arrived, they were asked to take off their shoes, and were then given song books to take part in the ceremony – all just like at the ashram. And afterwords, a small meal was served in the form of delicious samosas.

It was a very special day and hopefully one day we will be able to do it again. Thanks our Music Director Surya Botofasina, the Ashram Community Singers, Reggie Workman and Joe Blaxx, and our guests Moses Sumney, Jamila Woods, Lizzie Bougatsos, Emma Anderson and Angel Deradoorian. And, thanks to everyone who came out, helped out and took part in one way or another. It was truly wonderful to share this with you.

Attendees embrace after the show at The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, at Knockdown Center, 52-19 Flushing Ave. in Maspeth, NY, US on 21 May 2017.

Attendees embrace after the show at The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, at Knockdown Center.

The Sai Anantam Singers perform at The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, at Knockdown Center, 52-19 Flushing Ave. in Maspeth, NY, US on 21 May 2017.

The Sai Anantam Singers perform at The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, at Knockdown Center, 52-19 Flushing Ave. in Maspeth, NY, US on 21 May 2017.

Attendees enjoys music at The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, at Knockdown Center, 52-19 Flushing Ave. in Maspeth, NY, US on 21 May 2017.

Attendees enjoys music at The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, at Knockdown Center.

Event detail at The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, at Knockdown Center, 52-19 Flushing Ave. in Maspeth, NY, US on 21 May 2017.

Event detail at The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, at Knockdown Center.

Attendees enjoy music at The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, at Knockdown Center, 52-19 Flushing Ave. in Maspeth, NY, US on 21 May 2017.

Attendees enjoy music at The Ecstatic World of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda, part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival, at Knockdown Center, 52-19 Flushing Ave. in Maspeth, NY, US on 21 May 2017.

Photos courtesy of Ysanya Perez/Red Bull Content Pool

One Response to “Celebrating Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda at Knockdown Center”

  1. sunni lieberman says:

    It was magic! I there! so happy this music is being more widely shared at this ever so needed time in history.

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Doug Hream Blunt Live in London!



Join Doug Hream Blunt and friends this July 14th at the Jazz Cafe in London! Doug will be playing with The Messengers, an amazing 30 piece ensemble! There will also be performances from Janka Nabay & The Bubu Gang, London’s very own Klein, and The Hream Team Dream Machine!

Tickets are available here.

Presented by Eat Your Own Ears


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So here we are

Luaka Bop has been around 25 years, which in record label time feels weird. Like we have had many lives, and many era’s though, fact of the matter, for much of this time, Luaka Bop has been pretty much the same small thing clinging tenaciously to it’s parallel existence.

So here we are, 25 years later and we decided to put some of our ‘hits’ out on vinyl. From our first album, “Beleza Tropical,” which is the only album here that we previously issued on vinyl, an album that introduced a hell of a lot of folks to the beauty that is Brazilian popular music. To “The Soul of Black Peru,” the first album released outside of Peru of this music and the album that introduced the world to Susana Baca.


And here are some of our original artists like the amazing Los Amigos Invisibles representing our Venezuelan disco dance band phase with “Arepa 3000“. And the psychedelic country music (or something like that) of Jim White or “The Hips of Tradition“, our 1992 release and the first new album Tom Zé had recorded in 10 years!

To top this all of we have released the complete version of Love’s a Real Thing, our psychedelic African compilation that introduced us and many other folks to the incredible William Onyeabor.

These are all available from our site and will be in record stores world wide, well where they like us at any rate, April 15th.

Thanks for listening!

3 Responses to “So here we are”

  1. Serge says:

    hey guys,

    just finishing listening to Arepa 3000 on vinyl and wanted to commend on you the high quality of the pressing (thanks for making it a gatefold/180gram etc …)…so happy you guys put this out on vinyl…sounds great! Amigos have been a favorite of mine for years and I’ve always wanted more of their vinyl (the only thing being available to date is the very limited Zinga Son)… y’all ought to consider new sound of the venezuelan gozadera for an LP release…I’d buy it in a heartbeat!…

    I won’t go into how your first compilation of Brazilian music practically changed my life… 🙂

  2. Tom Cleary says:

    I’m trying to track down a compilation album of LusoAfrican music music produced around 15-20 years ago which had cuts from Bonga and Cesaire(?) Evora. Does anyone know of the album name and whether it’s still available?

  3. luakabop says:

    Hey Tom, That is an album called telling Stories to the Sea and it is still available on vinyl or download, streaming etc. Thanks for asking. Best, Yale

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The Story About the Swedish Machines in William Onyeabor’s Backyard

Ed. Note: Fans of African pop music stumbled on some mysterious records years ago. They were recorded in the ’70s and were by an artist named William Onyeabor and were unlike any other Afropop records out there—they featured topical lyrics and lots of synthesizers. Onyeabor was a well-known pop star in Nigeria for a while—but then he mysteriously disappeared. A few songs popped up on compilations and DJ mixes, but, as an artist, he and his music remained obscure—until recently. In attempting to license Onyeabor’s recordings some unconfirmed rumors surfaced—it seemed he had studied filmmaking in Russia, had a religious conversion at some point and had erased his vocals off the recordings everyone had heard and replaced them with Christian-themed lyrics. Was any of that true? Information was sketchy, but the music was wonderful. Determined to get to to the bottom of the mystery Eric Welles Nyström travelled to Nigeria to see for himself. This is a part of his journal of that trip.

It’s also worth noting that today marks the premiere of Fantastic Man—a documentary about the mythical and enigmatic William Onyeabor. Directed by Jake Sumner and presented by Alldayeveryday in association with Luaka Bop, Noisey and Phillips, the film presents “Onyeabor’s utter uniqueness and the lasting impact of his music” through interviews of musicians (like Damon Albarn), scholars (like Uchenna Ikonne), record collectors, and former collaborators (like Goddy Oku). Unfortunately, Onyeabor declined to be interviewed on camera, but, that combined with the rare look into his home—a dreamy, shrine-like scene of framed photos of William from the ’70s, family members and Jesus lining a staircase rooted by a Moog keyboard at the base—only adds to the mysticism surrounding him. 

Hypertension Album Cover

My name is Eric Welles Nyström and I work for Luaka Bop. Originally, I come from Sweden. William Onyeabor comes from Nigeria and you might wonder what any of those things might have to do with each other. That’s what I’m going to tell you now.

William Onyeabor lives in a palace hidden in the woods, outside a town called Enugu, in southeastern Nigeria. The palace was built by Onyeabor himself in the late 1970s, through what he calls “a gift from God.” I believe it’s not too far away from where he first grew up, although I’ve never been able to figure that out. Enclosed by a white gate, a beautiful old fountain sits in what resembles a courtyard in front of the palace, which is surrounded by grand palm trees that shoot up to the sky like a postcard. A balcony stretches around the whole building, with majestic white pillars.


At the Palace Gates

A flat, low-lying roof makes it look like a vintage resort of some sorts. On top of the roof, there is supposedly a heliport, however I’ve never been shown that. Parked in front before a magnificent entrance, is an old, silver Mercedes. The palace is called “Ezechukwo Palace,” which in Igbo means “God’s Palace.” It is the most fascinating place I’ve ever been.

The first time I visited the palace was in the late summer of 2012. Yale Evelev and I had spent the last year desperately trying to figure out anything about William Onyeabor. Having reached a dead end with the people who knew anything about him in the U.S. and Europe, I decided to try and visit him at his home in Nigeria. Many would say it’s a bad idea to visit Nigeria in the first place, while the few people that had actually met with him in person strictly advised against it. I thought I’d just give it a try. I didn’t think it would give us anything in terms of information—Yale had spent the last four years trying to license Onyeabor’s music for a compilation he was working on, and, though Mr. Onyeabor had finally signed the contract in the summer of 2011, he repeatedly refused to answer any questions about himself for more than a year. The last time we had spoken to him on the phone, we inadvertently asked him the wrong question and he almost hung up. I was so nervous during that call, I thought he’d never speak to us again. Many, many months later of having spent all waking hours thinking about him, and obsessively dreaming about him, all of this came tumbling down to this moment.  I was nervous as fuck.

Thinking back at it now, I guess the day that I first met Mr. Onyeabor felt like a scene out of a heist movie: at first I was taken to his office in town, which looks like a shut down business that is empty except for a stack of old computers behind a dusty counter, and with a clock on the wall that had stopped. When I arrived at the office, a woman asked me if I was from Russia. She then nervously took me out of town to what I understood would be his house. We drove through smaller towns and then through dense bush—always within eyesight of a biblical message preaching Jesus Christ and eventually got to the front of William Onyeabor’s palace, where I was lead inside and asked to wait in his living room.

Now this room is a whole other kettle of fish and something I could go on telling you about all day (There is the most extraordinary stairway built like an altar that feels like it’s shining in gold! An immense sofa that will seat at least thirty people! Twelve white pillars—one for each of the twelve apostles! Organs, keyboards, synthesizers, and other instruments scattered around the room with old recording equipment! And countless photos of Mr. Onyeabor himself, shaking hands with dignitaries and receiving awards!)—but I’m not going to do that.  After waiting there for a few minutes—nervously thinking that someone was watching me from the many shut doors, like in an old spy thriller—I was invited upstairs to “The VIP Room,” where I finally met him.

William Onyeabor is a man who not only doesn’t like to speak about himself, but more than anything, he doesn’t want you to ask him anything about himself. Now, as I was finally allowed to reach this point, I was determined not to ever cross that line. I gave him a few gifts I brought with me from New York (a futuristic watch with a touch screen, and a USB key shaped as a Moog synthesizer, ha!), while we watched the rather loud and very intense preaching of T.B. Joshua on Emmanuel TV.

Marital Problems? YOU NEED DELIVERANCE! – T.B. Joshua

He looked at the watch and played with the touch screen, but he wasn’t able to fit it around his large wrist. I was immediately embarrassed and afraid that I’d insulted him, but instead he chuckled and said, “When you go back to New York, tell everyone that you gave me a watch, but that my arm is so big it will fit no watch.” I explained that the watch is from Sweden and developed by some friends of mine there, and I would be sure to tell them to make bigger watches from now on. He replied, “Yes, Sweden has always been a country of great manufacturing. Sweden and Italy have always been good manufacturers.” I was so surprised by this, and explained that I couldn’t agree more and that I actually happen to be from Sweden. He looked at me for a long time, and then said, “Wonderful, wonderful. Yes, Sweden and Italy, they were always great at manufacturing.” I explained that my father is from Sweden and that I lived there most of my life. Again, he took some time and looked at me, before starting to tell me the story of when he visited Sweden, in the 1980s:

“When I was younger, I went to Sweden to study record manufacturing. I went to the offices of Toolex Alpha (pronouncing it Tooolex Alffa, repeating it several times as I wasn’t familiar with the name), in Sundbyberg (repeating it Sundd-biee-berggh). I had a friend there whose name was Gunnar-Axel (again, repeating the name several times). He looked very much like you, although you are not as heavy as he was. I remember, once when I was there, we went to eat in a restaurant—it was at the big hotel in Stockholm. You know the hotel? Yes. When we got to the restaurant it was so dark in the room, I couldn’t see myself. It was like I almost didn’t know where I was, as if I had vanished. Then, all of a sudden we are standing before this large mirror, and in the mirror I see these five men, standing next to a white shirt. I realize that the white shirt must be me, and below the cuff of my white shirt was my hand. At last, I realized where I was.”

He then looked at me for a long time, before he started chuckling. Nervous as I was, I figured I better laugh too, and then I realized what he actually just told me.

On the last day of that trip, he asked me to come with him to his backyard. We walked around the house, along the many pillars that gave shade from the bright morning sun. We continued over to a corner of the house that is surrounded by high grass, where there were five large machines under some scarcely wrapped tarpaulin. He lifted up one of the wrappings, and proudly said, “Here Eric, here are my Toolex Alpha machines, that I bought in Sweden from Gunnar Axel. Look!” I was in awe—the machines were beautiful and all I could think about was all the records they must have pressed, how they once were in his own factory in town, and how they came all the way from that small suburb of Stockholm, now resting in the calmness of Mr. Onyeabor’s backyard. I began to wish we could get them all together again, restart his old factory and get the studio up and running again, just like it used to be. (During my most recent visit to Mr. Onyeabor in February, I asked if I could take a photo of the machines for this piece. Unfortunately, he declined.)

Similar Toolex Alpha record pressing machine

Although I’m Swedish and work in music, I’d never heard of Toolex Alpha. When I got back to New York, I told Yale about all of this and he immediately started looking up information about the company, while I started trying to find leads to Gunnar Axel (who I just have to meet!). Yale read that the company went bust in the early 2000s, but it was widely considered one of the best record manufacturing suppliers of its time. There still seems to be a lot of interest in their machinery, and through the kind help from the people of The Secret Society of Lathe Trolls we have found someone in Brooklyn who would like to purchase Mr. Onyeabor’s machines—something I know he would love to do. I have yet to find Gunnar Axel, but I’m determined to make that the purpose of my next visit back home.

I’ve been back to see Mr. Onyeabor twice since that first trip. And still to this day, after countless hours together on the phone and many more hours together at his house, it is still that opening moment during my first trip that he told me the most about himself.


Goodbye Enugu

Goodbye Enugu

Signed Bible from William to Eric

Signed Bible from William to Eric

5 Responses to “The Story About the Swedish Machines in William Onyeabor’s Backyard”

  1. iain says:

    Amazing story.

    I buy all the African reissues I can get my hands on. The music of Nigeria is among my favorites.

    Thank you

  2. Nick says:

    Thankyou for an interesting article.
    As I know mr Axe and also the technicians that installed the Toolex machines in Nigeria, your article brings back memories…



  3. Dean says:

    What ever happened to the presses ???

  4. AndreasRunsten says:

    I find this on internet and I can confirm the storry.
    I know Gunnar –Axe and we had dinner last week with old Toolex Alpha Employees.
    It was a nice story and I know the company with new owners will start to produce some presses again since the interest for LP is coming back on the market.

    All the Best
    Andreas Runsten

  5. Per-Olof Ragnerius says:

    I can confirm Mr. Runstens assumption. The Company Pheenix Alpha of Sundbyberg,Sweden is now producing the Toolex Alpha AD12 record press again. Of course the machine has been modernized in some respects, but it is basically the same machine .

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Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 12.03.25 PM

Inigo Garayo is a Basque film maker who has been making a series of portraits of Luaka Bop artists, both current and past, as part of our 25th Anniversary. He went to visit Jim White in Jim’s home town of Athens, Georgia and made a whole slew of pieces of Jim’s world. This is one of them:

Jim White – Bluebird from INIGO GARAYO on Vimeo.

I visited Jim White to film him for this ''25 years Luaka Bop'' thing I have been working on. Since he was my favorite guy in the label and was so nice to let me stay at his place a few days I had time to film more than the usual -improvised on the run take-. Actually we filmed 5 of these -improvised on the run takes-

Thanks to Jim White and Doctor Sadie Pratt for a great time and Carlos for the sound mix.

Music: Jim White

-yes, that car just passed by in the right moment.

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The MOOG & Luaka Bop – William Onyeabor REMIX SERIES


In the 1970’s I had a synthesizer. It was a Putney VCS 3. It looked like this:

 Putney VCS 3

If you look closely you will see that it had a patch panel that you would use little pins to connect one part of the synthesizer to another. My skills were such that all I could do with this is set up a patch creating a sound and then, over the course of days, the cheap potentiometers in the synth would drift apart and create amazing sounds that I could never have gotten by myself. It impressed the girls. Anyway I sold it to a friend at the time named Raymond for $100, I see now in writing this they go for $12,000!!! Yikes.

A slight bit after the release of the Putney, Moog released the Mini Moog synth. This revolutionized the use of synthesizers in performing music as there were no longer those weird and hard to use patch bays to create sounds. Also it was a much better made piece of equipment then my Putney.

As you can imagine, it is an amazing honor for us to be able to work with the Moog Music Company on our Onyeabor release. At times we have gone to different companies to say “Here is a project we are working on, would you be interested in working on it with us?”. Usually they just don’t get it. Moog did! Since the summer, Moog and Luaka Bop have been in communication with electronic musicians, bands and DJ’s to develop a unique series of remixes and covers that would shed new light on Onyeabor’s idiosyncratic funkiness, as well as highlight his extraordinary use of Moog synthesizers. Here is a video Moog made with us to announce the series:

In order to effectively pursue this project with the Moog stamp of awesomeness, they’ve created custom William Onyeabor models of the Little Phatty and Moog Minitaur! Check out these photos:

Moog Atomic Bomb Minitaur

Moog Atomic Bomb

Here are the first three release remixes; Joakims amazing rework of Good Name:

Joakim “Good Name” remix premiered on Fader!!

And the legendary Scientist’s take on Body and Soul:

Scientist “Body & Soul” remix on The Quietus!!

Policy’s remix of “Something You’ll Never Forget”
Policy “Something You’ll Never Forget” remix on XLR8R!!

One Response to “The MOOG & Luaka Bop – William Onyeabor REMIX SERIES”

  1. rob gorney says:

    This is pure candy. Thank you for realizing this project

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Is this an interview…?

Dear Folks,

I thought we’d write a very long back story about this album from Eric and I for you to perhaps read if you have the time some evening when you’re done with the day’s doings. It goes like this:

Yale: In the late 1970’s I worked in a record store in Soho, NYC with a lot of musicians when Soho was a very arty neighborhood full of the Byrne / Eno’s of the world and in fact – Byrne and Eno. John Zorn, who also worked in the store, and I used to go out to the African Record Center on Nostrand Ave in Brooklyn waaay before that was an arty borough to buy records for the record store. I bought as many African funk records for myself as they would get, which was not a huge amount by any means. Nonetheless I had a collection of what I imagined to be the very small world of African funk.


In the late 1990’s I was now working with David Byrne at Luaka Bop and I suggested we do a compilation of African funk as no one had paid any attention to what I thought was a minor side light to Juju, Apala, Highlife, Soukous and the more mainstream rivers of African music. He liked the idea and I started on getting clearances as these things take forever to get the rights. This was going to be the third in Luaka Bop’s series of psychedelic music from places other the than the US and the UK.  When we started this series with Os Mutantes, people we told we were working on a collection of psychedelic music from Brazil all said “Really?! That exists?!” (Shuggie Otis was number 2 by the way.)


Right when we had all the clearances, including the very first license of Poly Rythmo de Cotonou, and were about to put out our album a record came out from Strut called Nigeria 70! It was put together by Quinton Scott and Duncan Brooker who had lived in Africa and had assiduously collected records there. Our two compilations had no tracks in common, (so I guess there was a bigger world out there than I thought). Though we were annoyed it came out right then, we really loved the record and talked to Quinton about adding a few of the tracks he had collected. He generously put us in touch with whom he had cleared the rights from and we licensed a few things including William Onyeabor, and added them to our album.


In 2009, after I had been working on our Tim Maia album for 7 years, (World Psychedelic Classics 4) and it was still not near to coming out, I was approached by Uchenna Ikonne, a Nigerian writer who runs the the blog Comb and Razor. He said you have one William Onyeabor track on your Psychedelic African compilation, would you like to do a whole album with him? I said Yeah! Great he said, I am going to Enugu, Nigeria where me and William Onyeabor are from for three months and if you give me money for an advance and a contract I will license the tracks for you. Nine months later Uchenna returned to the U.S., the advance paid but no signed contract. Not a perfect situation.

200 Naira honoring William Onyeabor

200 Naira honoring William Onyeabor

This lasted three years! At which point Uchenna asked a lady friend of his to go to Onyeabor’s house. She told Onyeabor she was not going to leave until he signed the contract. 5 hours later he did!


A few weeks after getting the contract I called up William Onyeabor and talked to him for the first time. “Hello Mr, Onyeabor it’s so great we are going to do an album with you! I have hired a well known Nigerian novelist, Chris Abani, who is also from Enugu, to write liner notes and he will call you and talk about your history and how you made the music you made.”

William Onyeabor said “Why would I want to talk about that? I only want to talk about Jesus.”

And then he hung up.

Hmm I thought, is this a negotiation?


Another year goes by, (I waited this long I might as well see if anything develops.)

Onyeabor asks Uchenna, “When are they putting that record out.”

Uchenna says, “They are waiting for you to talk about your history,” to which Onyeabor says, “I guess it will never come out then.”


At this time Eric Welles-Nyström started at Luaka Bop. Since we were going to now put out the Onyeabor album with no real information Eric started doing deep research. What he discovered was that all the information he could find, most often in the user comments on blogs or on YouTube, about Onyeabor really came down to the same handful of sentences. That’s interesting we thought and began to wonder where even those sentences came from. The ‘known information’ was:


William Onyeabor was born in Enugu, Nigeria and studied film making in the Soviet Union. He returned to Enugu, made a movie called “Crashes in Love” and released a soundtrack. The soundtrack did better than the film and he started a recording career. No musicians were credited so perhaps he played all the instruments. He released eight albums on his own label, opened a pressing plant and a recording studio before becoming born again and leaving music. He currently lives in Enugu where he has been made a high chief of his home town and has a few businesses, like a flour mill, and an internet cafe.


After a few months while Eric was researching we licensed a track to a Danish company for a Christmas gift, an album of African music they were giving to their friends and suppliers. I told Uchenna I had some money for Onyeabor and asked how I should get it to him, (save actually going there). He asked Oyeabor and told me Onyeabor was thinking about it. After a month or so of no answer I called Onyeabor and asked him directly. He told me that he wasn’t sure yet and we had a very nice conversation. So all full of good feelings I asked him, “Mr. Onyeabor, how did you end up in Moscow studying film making?”

Onyeabor said, “Film production?”

“Sure, yes, film production.”

This is what followed:
























































30 seconds of silence.


“Is this an interview…? I don’t want to go back to that time. I just want to talk about Jesus.”


Eric: Well, after I had worked on things intensely and kind of ‘lived Onyeabor’ for half a year, I personally felt like I had to give it a shot and try to visit him. At this point I’d spent countless nights scavenging the internet for clues, gone down various rabbit holes trying to find solid information and asked what felt like hundreds of people about him, many times waiting hours outside a club or venue waiting for a certain someone to finish playing or come off stage. At one point I even dreamt about him and one of his songs.


So, I tell Uchenna that I want to go see him and he says that’s the most stupid thing in the world, that he probably won’t want to see me or maybe just ‘break my neck’. I insist, and for a few weeks Yale brings up the idea to Onyeabor in some way and tries to explain that I will stop by for a visit, making things up like ‘I happen to be in the country’, and casual things like that. He doesn’t seem too keen on the idea of course – and not even when we suggest I bring him the money from the Danish license.


So I think ‘fuck it’, I’ll just see what happens and go there – not expecting anything at all but just feeling like ‘I can’t not ‘not go”.  However, I soon realize that going to Nigeria isn’t the easiest thing in the world – visas, vaccinations, booking flights and hotels are so difficult and costly – many times because you just cant do business in Nigeria, and with the frequent security issues and news coming from over there – you constantly question why you are doing this.


Anyways – I get over there and plan a one week stay in Nigeria, starting in Abuja (where Susana Baca is recording!)  and Lagos, and eventually making my way east to Enugu, not knowing what to expect or without a clue how it will be out there. When I get there, I realize how remote and rural this place is. There is one flight per day from Lagos, and I’m the only white person onboard. The airport is minuscule and getting into town takes a mere ten minutes, and you’re driving on dirt roads and along small villages. I’m just amazed that Onyeabor is supposed to be from this place.

Enugu, Nigeria

The next day I go to the address Onyeabor has given us, and what happens next I will never forget for the rest of my life. I arrive at a place that looks like an empty storefront or a shut down business of some sorts. The electricity is off and inside there is a woman sitting on a plastic chair by a plastic table. There is nothing inside besides for some old computers stacked in a corner and a clock that’s frozen on the wall. She asks me if I’m there to see “the chief”, and, then, as if it were scripted, “are you from Russia?”. When she says this it’s like time stops for me and I actually can feel my jaw drop. I’m stunned.

Enugu, Nigeria

Enugu, Nigeria


We then get into my taxi and she then takes me outside of town to where Onyeabor lives. We drive through deep bush and into the countryside for 30min, and eventually arrive at his house – a beautiful 1970s palace hidden in the woods, with a lovely courtyard, an old (non-working) fountain and a silver old Mercedes parked out front. I’m welcomed inside by his wife and immediately see lots of film and music equipment scattered around the house. She sits me down to wait in a huge living room built to host 30-40 people. There are paintings and photos of him everywhere and everything is super modern for the mid 80s – when it looks like time stopped. There are huge doors everywhere and I have no idea what behind them. As I wait, I remember feeling how anyone could appear from anywhere in this huge place, and like, maybe, someone is even watching me from somewhere.


The wife then comes and gets me, and I’m lead upstairs to a second room which she calls “the VIP room” where I get to meet him. The six months of living this whole thing intensely flash before my eyes – and all of the sudden I am there — at his house in Nigeria — meeting him in person. It was truly magical and among the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced.


Question: Where is he coming from, what is his story back in the days he was releasing music? How did he came to this synth-filled electronic club sound?

Yale: We don’t know.


Question: How did he find the money to buy the very expensive synths he’s playing on?

Yale: We don’t know. Someone once told us he was the Moog representative of Nigeria, however we haven’t been able to confirm that yet.


Question: Was he a successful musician or more like a curiosity in Nigeria?

Eric: This is really hard to say. Different people said different things. The only impact he had outside Enugu, if any, was through his last record, Anything You Sow, and his song “When The Going is Smooth and Good”. I spent a week with him in Enugu but we just watched religious television as he was not interested, even with me there, in answering any questions about his musical life.


Question: What is he doing today? Is he really a born-again and a business man and a village chief.

Eric: He is a born again Christian and was at some point in his life awarded the “high chief” title of his village, for the success he had in business and for the work and food he provided for his community.


Question: Why is this compilation the hardest reissue Luaka Bop worked on in 25 years?

Yale: As I alluded to earlier, all of these sorts of albums take a hell of a long time to sort out. Our Tim Maia release took 10 years! But it was not just the time these things take, or the mastering difficulties, it also our mind set. For one thing, until Eric started working at Luaka Bop and did a tremendous amount of research figuring out that there was no real information about Onyeabor, I really struggled with putting out an album without any facts or commentary from someone about how this music came to be. It just seemed shoddy. However when we realized that the same few sentences of information were posted everywhere and that there wasn’t any information about him, we thought, what an incredible thing in this day of hyper information to find someone who, though he is alive, is known in his community, has numerous businesses, has put out eight albums, had his own label, film studio, pressing plant (and who knows what else), is somewhat of a blank slate of information.

Learn more about William Onyeabor

Learn more about William Onyeabor

3 Responses to “Is this an interview…?”

  1. Abba Makama says:

    Hiya Hiya Hiya Hiya Hiya Hiya

  2. essential compilation & wonderful story * thanks jochen

  3. Eileen English says:


    I was wondering who to get in contact with regarding job opportunities over at Luaka.

    Eileen English

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Limited Edition Good Name album

Good Name

We were designing how our pre-order should look and we mistakenly put this limited edition release of Good Name on sale! They all sold out pretty immediately, damn.

However we have a couple in the office and if your in NYC on Saturday, come on by the record fair in the Brooklyn Flea/Smorgasberg at the Williamsburg Park where we will sell the two on hand.

12 Responses to “Limited Edition Good Name album”

  1. ceugnart says:

    How could I buy you a copie of the Wonderful LP Good Name you’ve just repress?
    I ‘m not living in USA.
    Thanks a lot.

  2. Lefort says:

    Hi guys, do you still have pleaaaase a copy of Good Name available for me ?

    Best regards


  3. tony says:

    Please shoot me an email if you happen to find a copy lying around. Such a good record, just found out it was reissued, but too late!


  4. Va says:

    Will the re-release other albums maestro Onyeabor?

  5. Cyil says:


    I would be very very interested by a copy ?
    How can we do ?

  6. Steve says:

    That must be the sadest news of the month!! I was waiting impatiently for the release…. :((((

  7. Reda says:

    Very sad indeed… Any reason why this reissue was so limited (300 copies I believe) ?
    The discogs resellers are loving it: http://www.discogs.com/sell/list?release_id=4984644&ev=rb

  8. nick holt says:

    put me down for one too!

  9. Tyrel says:

    Will the reissue to the “Good Name” be sold on your website?

  10. paul says:

    Yep! We’re going to post the details shortly.

  11. Yale says:

    To the question of will we re-issue the rest of the William Onyeabor albums, we are working on two box sets of his complete catalog, one with 4LP’s and 1, with 5LPs. They should see the light of day nearer the end of the year.

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25th Anniversary Artist Profiles: Janka Nabay

Janka Nabay
OK Africa covers our latest edition of Inigo Garayo’s series of filmed portraits of Luaka Bop’s artists.

Janka Nabay lives in Washington DC and, at times, when he isn’t touring works in an Ethiopian food truck. He of course is not Ethiopian but instead from Sierra Leone. We had never been to Steve (of Delicate Steve’s) house nor have we ever been to Janka’s. If you ever watched The Wire you will recognize the set up here. As Janka says, “compared to what life was like in Sierra Leone, I have no complaints.” Maybe at some point there will be enough money in the Janka Nabay and Bubu Gang world to move on up. Nonetheless another fantastic explication of our little world of Luaka and the artist who reside within.

Once again thanks to Dick Hovenga at Written in Music for making all this happen.

2 Responses to “25th Anniversary Artist Profiles: Janka Nabay”

  1. Yale, heard NPR report about you. I’m from Reading, PA and your name is so familiar from there. Let me know if that’s you. Roger

  2. Yale says:

    Well two years later and I see this Roger, anyway I was named after my grandfather who lived in Reading Pa.

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Trust the Situation


I’ve written a couple of blog posts but not published them, maybe I didn’t think they were finished or good enough or something. However now that we are close to releasing our compilation of William Onyeabor let me see if I can talk about this.

Five years ago Uchenna Ikonne, (proprietor of the Comb and Razor blog), called me out of the blue and said, “You folks released a psychedelic African compilation  with a track by William Onyeabor on it, would you like to do a whole album of his music?”

“Sounds fantastic!” I said.

Uchenna continued, “Onyeabor lives in the town of Enugu in Nigeria, that is my hometown and I am going back there for three months during Christmas, I can take a contract and an advance and come back with the music.”

Great I thought as our compilations often take years,  for one reason or another, to complete and this seemed like it would only take a few months.

Though I didn’t know Uchenna I thought I would trust the situation and gave him the advance money and a contract. Five years later here we are! Hah!

Let’s just say that William Onyeabor is a complicated individual. And though it might have started out a straight forward situation, it didn’t end up that way. Nevertheless we have gotten everything in order and though Mr. Onyeabor will not talk about anything having to do with his past, how he made this music, what he was thinking about at the time or much else we are releasing a three LP, one CD and download album called “Who Is William Onyeabor?” on September 15th.



vintage Moog console

Around our release we are working to have a few special things and some wonderful collaborations. One very special collaboration for us is with Moog Synthesizers. They are making William Onyeabor edition synthesizers and presenting them to a selection of remixers who we will be releasing work from over the coming months. The first will be on a limited two color 10″ by Dam-funk on one side and Justin Strauss on the other.

Another is a limited to 300 hand numbered edition of one of William Onyeabor’s rarest albums called Good Name. This will be hand numbered and packaged in a Wilfilms (Onyeabor’s label) shopping bag. We expect it will sell out pretty much the day it goes on sale..

More to come.

Love from Luaka Bop

3 Responses to “Trust the Situation”

  1. Benjamin says:

    How do we know when good name is released?

  2. Yale says:

    We are struggling with the packaging for this so right now the beginning of September is when we think it will be released. Thanks for asking.

  3. David says:

    I missed the limited stock of the good name album! Will there be any rereleases of it?

    Also, any recommendations for people I might like if I like William Onyeabor?



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25th Anniversary Artist Profiles: Delicate Steve

Since the beginning of the label’s existence there have been a handful of journalists in Europe who were interested enough in what we do to visit us and talk with us about what we are doing. At times they seemed to us to be a portal for our stuff to be heard in their countries.

Dick Hovenga in Holland is one such person. He came by the office a few months ago and said, “So, next year is your 25th Anniversary, we should do something about that. We’ll do a special on our site, Written in Music. And I’ll have my friend, Inigo, a Basque filmmaker who used to live in Amsterdam, and now lives in Brooklyn, come by and film stuff.”

So Inigo came by speaking English with an unusual Basque accent. He told us that Dick had told him, “Go by Luaka Bop and see Eric and Yale, you will like them and do some films.” Since none of us had any idea what any of this would be (and I’m kind of allergic to people who work at record labels being overly focused on)… we came up with the thought that Inigo could go to different musicians’ houses, both on the label now and previously on the label and do little profiles.

We thought it would be cool to see Inigo driving up and saying, “Hi, I’m Inigo Garayo from the Basque part of Spain and I’m here in New Jersey to see Delicate Steve.” Well it didn’t come out exactly like that. Nonetheless we are pretty pleased of Dick and Inigo’s plan to do a profile of Luaka Bop that focuses on the musicians.

Here is the first one:


Stay tuned for more on Susana Baca, Javelin, Zap Mama, Os Mutantes, Bright Moments, Janka Nabay, Los Amigos Invisibles, Jim White and more. Each one will be different, some you’ll like and some might not be for you, just like the label.


One Response to “25th Anniversary Artist Profiles: Delicate Steve”

  1. Fidel says:

    Make it shorter!!!

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Tim Maia Coming Soon

It’s been 10 years but this October we will release our long awaited compilation of Tim Maia, “Nobody Can Live Forever: The Existential Soul of Tim Maia”.

7 Responses to “Tim Maia Coming Soon”

  1. fabizu says:

    pls make vinyl

  2. Rich Goncalves says:

    Awesome !!

  3. Curatenie says:

    Yes, pleaaase make vinyls of this!

  4. Alexir says:

    Can’t wait to listen the compilation of Tim Maia “Nobody Can Live Forever: The Existential Soul of Tim Maia”.I’m a huge fan!Great photos!

  5. michael says:

    yes! make vinyls !!!

  6. Vinyl records Rules Forever, let’s keep Vinyl spin!

  7. Wa Ohh, awesome! Very nice vinyl!

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