Since the 1960s, Ebenezer Obey has been one of the most popular, prolific, and influential musicians in Nigeria, releasing over fifty albums, developing juju style, and conducting an informal and highly creative campaign against his competitors in the musical world. Obey’s first band, the International Brothers, was formed in 1964 and played a slow and music composed of layered guitars and Yoruban percussion sounds. Always a cultural and religious traditionalist, Obey worked within the praise song mould, vaunting both Christianity and the various heads of state for whom he played. But while his lyrics were traditional, his musical direction was highly innovative. In an effort to rise above his competition, Obey began to develop new musical “systems,” adding as many as 20 new musicians to his ensemble at a time, extending the length of his album tracks, and pumping out hit after hit. A stylish and bluesy guitarist whose music had been contagious in Nigeria for years, Obey finally enjoyed international success in 1980 with ‘Current Affairs’.
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He began his professional career in the mid-1950s after moving to Lagos. After tutelage under Fatai Rolling-Dollar’s band, he 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 lie in weaving intricate Yoruba axioms into dance-floor compositions. As is characteristic of Nigerian Yoruba social-circle music, the Inter-Reformers band excel 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.
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Ebenezer Obey has a long list of records to his name. Below is a partial discography of the living legend in the music industry:
- 1964: Ewa Wo Ohun Ojuri
- 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
- 1987: Aimasiko, Immortality, Victory, Patience
- 1988: Determination, Vanity
- 1989: Formula 0-1-0, Get Yer Jujus Out
- 1990: Count Your Blessing, On the Rock
- 1991: Womanhood
- 1993: Good News
- 1994: I Am a Winner, Walking Over (1994?)
- 1995: The Legend
- 1999: Millennial Blessings
- 2000: Promised Land
- 2002: Ase Oluwa
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 grandchildren.
Obey is of an Egba–Yoruba ethnic background. He is of the Owu subgroup of the Egba.
Featured Image Source: Daily Post NGA
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