Sunday, April 4, 2021 2:04 pm
Yesterday, Saturday, 3 April, 2021, was when Chief Ebenezer Fabiyi, Ebenezer Obey for style, clocked 79.He has every reason to mark this in grand style. Reason: He was among the few Nigerians like Nnamdi Azikiwe, Alex Akinyele, who read their own obituaries in the media. Obey’s own “death news” went viral on social media. However, he is well and kicking.
Now, he is a juju music legend. However, his road to stardom was tough. But what kept him going was confidence in his God-given creativity
Below is a story which we published on him in the past. It is about how determination to succeed fired his resolve to overcome all obstacles.
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
The secretary in that office said with emphatic knocks on the table: “You cannot see my boss.” However, the young man would not take no for an answer. “No, I must see him, I am a star, I have come to record my music for your company,” the young man said, cleaning his face, his visage an admixture of plea and defiance. He had earlier used that expression as key with the gateman who did not want him to enter the premises. He was not ready to go back without achieving his aim that day. The year was 1957.
The young man, Ebenezer Obey-Fabiyi, with a tooth gap, sweating like a highly refrigerated bottle of wine, had walked under the blistering equatorial sunlight that afternoon from Mushin to Yaba. From there, he proceeded to Oyingbo, to Iddo and Carter Bridge (neither Eko Bridge nor the third mainland bridge had been constructed that time). With more rivulets of sweat running down his face, but with determination pushing him, he reached the popular Idumota and made a beeline for Abibu-Oki Street office of DECCA West Africa Limited on Lagos Island.
“I told you that you can’t see my oga, and you are saying you are a star. Star ko, moon ni!” The lady said sarcastically. At a point, she ignored him and continued with her typing and sipping of tea and chewing of snacks. Obey stock to his gun: “I must see him!” His voice rose so much that the white boss from whom the secretary was shielding the artiste heard from his inner sanctum.
“What the hell is going on there? what is the noise about?” The Managing Director, Mr. C. K Cress, phoned the secretary through Intercom and asked. The secretary, eyeing Obey with contempt and suppressed hisses, replied her boss, “It’s this man who said he is a star and will like to see you and I said he cannot.”
The MD asked, “A star?”
“Yes.” the woman affirmed.
“Let the star come in”.
The white man removed his pair of glasses and eyed the young man quizzically, waving him into a chair, asking, “Young man, you said you are a star. Let’s hear your story.”
“Sir, I am a star, a future star. I have come to record for you. Just record me and don’t pay me until when you have recorded me and you see the sales of the released record. My record is going to sell.”
The white man, as narrated on Michael Phils’ blog, ordered the artiste manager, Mr. Ogunsanya, to give Ebenezer Obey a trial. “DECCA West Africa Limited recorded the songs of Ebenezer Obey, instead of 8 tracks he prepared for, 5 of the songs were recorded. Despite the fact that Ebenezer Obey moved round to canvass the distributors to buy his record, 500 copies of the Album were not sold for the selector’s mark, the basic requirements for the qualification.
It required just 19 copies to meet up 500 copies. The future star failed, the staff were making jest of Ebenezer Obey. ‘Sir, your future star did not make it’, the artist manager told the white man. The Whiteman, encouraged by Obey’s confidence to succeed ordered for 25 copies to rescue the future star from disqualification. Thus, Obey’s first Album “ Ewo ohun oju ri” sold 506 copies in 1964.”
Obey-Fabiyi, Nigeria’s juju music maestro, who marked his 77th birthday anniversary on 3 April 2019 has gone through the shadow of the valley of death before he reached stardom. Or how else could one describe a man who, in order to submit his first record to his potential producer, trekked a dizzying distance from Mushin to Lagos to do that?
Before that encounter, Obey whose early education was at Methodist Primary school Modern School where he was a band leader had formed Ifelodun Mambo Orchestra. He relocated to Lagos from Idogo with two men, Akinyomi Savage and Bamgbose Jumoda, also known as Abengo Mayana. After tutelage under Fatai Rolling-Dollar’s band, Obey, according to Arts historians formed a band called The International Brothers in 1964, playing highlife–jùjú fusion. The band later metamorphosed into Inter-Reformers in the early-1970s, with a long list of Juju album hits on the West African Decca musical label.
Obey began experimenting with Yoruba percussion style and expanding on the band by adding more drum kits, guitars and talking drums. Obey’s musical strengths, as Wikipedia records, lie in weaving intricate Yoruba axioms into dance-floor compositions. As is characteristic of Nigerian Yoruba social-circle music, the Inter-Reformers band excels in praise-singing for rich Nigerian socialites and business tycoons. Obey, however, is also renowned for Christian spiritual themes in his music and has since the early-1990s retired into Nigerian gospel music ministry. It will be worthy of note to also say that Chief Commander just as he is fondly called by his fans, has played alongside popular gospel music veteran, Pastor Kunle Ajayi during his 30 years on stage concert in Lagos.
An Egba from Ogun State, Obey was born on 3 April 1942 as Ebenezer Remilekun Aremu Olasupo Obey-Fabiyi in Idogo. In the course of his music career, he picked up the nickname “Chief Commander
Obey married Juliana Olaide Olufade in 1963. His wife, known as Lady Evangelist Juliana Obey-Fabiyi, died at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital on 23 August 2011, aged 67. They have several children and grand children.
To celebrate Obey at 77, last year, Mr Femi Esho, the big boss of Evergreen Records, Surulere, presented him with his complete works.
1964 Ewa Wo Ohun Ojuri
1965 Aiye Gba Jeje b/w Ifelodun*Gari Ti Won b/w Orin Adura
1966 Awolowo Babawa Tide b/w Oluwa Niagbara Emi Mi*Palongo b/w Teti Ko Gboro Kan*Oro Miko Lenso b/w Orin Ajinde*Late Justice Olumide Omololu b/w Iyawo Ti Mo Ko Fe
1967 Olomi Gbo Temi b/w Maria Odeku*To Keep Nigeria One b/w Awa Sope Odun Titun*Edumare Lon Pese b/w Omo Olomo*Ope Fun Oluwa b/w Paulina
1968 Ore Mi E Si Pelepele b/w Ajo Ni Mo wa*Ijebu L’ade b/w Lati Owolabi*Col. Ben Adekunle b/w Ori Bayemi*Lolade Wilkey b/w Adetunji Adeyi*Gbe Bemi Oluwa b/w Olowo Laiye Mo
1969 Ode To Nso Eledumare b/w Pegan Pegan*Sanu-olu b/w K’Oluwa So Pade Wa*London Lawa Yi b/w Oro Seniwo*Isokan Nigeria / etc.*Eni Mayo Ayo / etc1969/1970*Emi Yio Gbe Oluwa Ga b/w Ise Teni
1970 Lawyer Adewuyi*Ala Taja Bala b/w Ohun Toluwa Ose*Ogun Pari / etc.*In London*On The Town
1971 Ija Pari (Part One) b/w Ija Pari (Part Two)*Esa Ma Miliki b/w Awon Alhaji*Face to Face b/w Late Rex Lawson*Oro Nipa Lace b/w Yaro Malaika
1972 Late Oba Gbadelo II*Board Members*Vol.4: Aiye Wa A Toro*In London Vol. 3*Odun Keresimesi
1973 And His Miliki Sound*The Horse, The Man and His Son*E Je Ka Gbo T’Oluwa*Adeventure of Mr. Music*Mo Tun Gbe De
1974 Inter-Reformers A Tunde*Eko Ila*Around the World*Iwalka Ko Pe
1975 Mukulu Muke Maa Jo*Ota Mi Dehin Lehin Mi*Alo Mi Alo*Edumare Dari Jiwon
1976 Late Great Murtara Murtala Ramat Muhammed*Operation Feed The Nation
1977 Eda To Mose Okunkun*Immortal Sings for Travellers*Adam and Eve
1978 Igba Owuro Lawa*Oluwa Ni Olusa Aguntan Mi*No Place Be Like My Country Nigeria
1979 In the Sixties Vol.1*In the Sixties Vol.2*Igba Laiye*Sky*E Wa Kiye Soro Mi*Omo Mi Gbo Temi
1980 Leave Everything to God*Current Affairs*Sound of the Moment*Eyi Yato
1981 Joy of Salvation*What God Has Joined Together
1982 Celebration*Austerity*Precious Gift
1983 Ambition*Singing for the People*Greatest Hits Vol. 3*Je Ka Jo*Thank You (Ose)
1984 The Only Condition to Save Nigeria*Solution*Peace1985*Security*My Vision
1986 Gbeja Mi Eledumare*Satisfaction*Providence
1989 Formula 0-1-0*Get Yer Jujus Out
1990 Count Your Blessing*On the Rock
1993 Good News
1994 I Am a Winner*Walking Over
1995 The Legend
1999 Millennial Blessings
2000 Promised Land
2002 Ase Oluwa
-This piece was adapted from the 2019 version published on this platform.