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Ebenezer Obey’s flair for music was discovered while he was an active member of the school’s cultural group – the Idogo boys and girls club. He later became the leader of the school’s Church choir and also a member of the Ifelodun Mambo Orchestra. It was only to be expected that he would automatically choose music as a career upon leaving school in 1958, when he left Abeokuta for Lagos to join the Fatai Rolling Dollars Band, his first professional group.

However, Obey’s rise to fame and stardom began in 1963 with the release of his debut single album ‘Ewa wo ohun oju ri’. It was followed in quick succession by ‘Olomi gbo temi’, the hit single that became an instant success with massive listenership. And ever since, there has been no looking back for ‘Chief Commander’ Ebenezer Obey, who, at the last count before he ‘retired’ from active social music in 1992, to answer the call of God as an evangelist of the Lord, had over 150 albums, 20 gold discs, 3 platinum and several national and international honours and awards to show for his glorious musical career as one of Africa’s most sought after mega star.

In his words, ”a musician can develop his talent through regular practice. When you do it constantly, you will improve on your performance. Most of my songs are character moulding, and they are directed at the society as a whole. People like listening to my music before leaving home in the morning. My lyrics are not only didactic, they uplift the human spirit”.

”When God gives you a talent and sets you up in a generation, the Lord Himself, will give you a special message for that generation something that will make you an outstanding person. Your generation will marvel at your gift and appreciate your ingenuity. So, when we talk about the source of my inspiration, I would readily say it comes from God”.

”My voice has always been the magic. To find my own Identity in the field of Juju music, I mixed highlife with Juju and used my vocal prowess as the magic, and it worked. Before me, everybody sang together in Juju music, everybody did vocal, and the leader led; but what I did was to allow my voice to dominate and give half a minute to the voices of my band boys. That allowed my meaningful lyrics to sink very well. It was a strange innovation and before I knew it, I was on my way to the top. My music then became a hybrid of highlife and Juju”.

”When I am in the mood to compose. I can compose up to thirty songs in one day. If a song is good, you know it, you feel it. A good song must have a good melody. If the melody isn’t catchy or arresting, the record wouldn’t make it”.

”It came to a point when everything became spontaneous. When I wanted to go for recording, I didn’t necessarily need to think seriously of what I would sing. Most of my compositions were done live on stage. I would be on stage and the melody would come and my band boys would be wondering how the ideas come. I believe everything comes from God. The Almighty breathes down the music into me. At times, when the spirit to sing a new song came, it would hit me and I would tell my boys that I want to sing. Something in me is telling me that I have to sing, so everybody must get ready. When they saw me in that mood, the boys were always happy. They would cheer and shout, ‘Oga’, immediately, the guitarist would start striking the chords, the music would just be flowing and everybody would be playing his part as if we had all rehearsed before”

”I learnt from my days as a pool’s clerk that life is a game of luck. In the pool business, people are looking for emergency money. A lot of people waste money, hoping and dreaming to win. Their motto is, ”If I don’t win today, I will win tomorrow.” Even when they won the previous day, they are perpetually in a no-win situation, because they would still use the money they won in playing pools, and at the end of the day, they lost all their money. Mine is not like that. All my life, I have always been lucky to be at the right place at the right time, and I always meet the right people, like Mr. Cress, the man who gambled on me and won”.

Today, the Chief Commander is 82 years, still dishing out the best of Juju music.

  • Tope Olukole

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