Governor, State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola (middle) displaying a CD Album titled:- ”Aregbesola: Agent of Change” presented to him by, Juju Musician, Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey-Fabiyi (left) to Support his Re-Election Campaign in Ilesa, State of Osun on Thursday. With them is the Deputy Governor, Mrs Titi Laoye-Tomori.
By Erasmus Ikhide
For music stars like Obey, it is given that moments of societal collapse – such as we are in today- will always reverberate in them the messages of hope to attest to their artistic industry and penchant for civic engagement. Such opportunities like this also serves lovers of music maestros to rekindle their love for their rhythms and appreciate their uncommon lyrics and the ideology for which they stand.
Ebenezer Obey neither disappoints none falters on any of these lines of advocacy recently as he rolled out the drums for a man of alternative perceptive in governance.
Though, Obey’s brand of music is simultaneously complex and elemental, traditional and more prosaic to hearing. Obey’s talking drums establish a propulsive rhythm pattern; his guitar lays another jittery rhythm over that, as chanted harmonies join in, and so on with the rest of the 17-piece ensemble each time he mounts the musical throne. The result is usually a colorful, thickly interwoven texture that somehow sounds airy, and reveals new details each time you hear it.
His old self
Since the mid-1950 after moving to Lagos from Idogo, Ogun State, his place of birth where he began his professional career, Ebenezer Obey, nicknamed the “Chief Commander” has consistently remained an icon and a household name for all lovers of good music in Africa and beyond.
After tutelage under the 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. His music steams genially from his characteristic race that is forged from the very passionate drive of hopes, dreams for the future and attainments of miliki (enjoyment) for his people for which the Yoruba people are known.
Obey is in the class of first generation musician like: I. K. Dairo, Rex Jim Lawson, Victor Abimbola Olaiya, Zeal Onyia, Eddy Okonta, Fatai Rolling-Dollars, Celestine Ukwu, Bobby Benson, even though they were relatively ahead of him. The same goes for his contemporaries like Stephen Osita Osedebe; Victor Uwaifo, Sunny Ade, and of course, the lady of songs, Christy Essien Igbokwe, Dan Maraya Jos, Nelly Uchendu, Orlando Julius and Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the Afro-beat King and a host of others. This is the percussionist generation different than to the present wannabes who can hardly locate a key on a piano or guitar yet are laureled as musical geniuses.
In any occasion, you could still feel and hear the original sound of trap drums, pedal steel guitar, synthesizers, and more and more percussion instrumentals in the beats. You could say Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey did not create the juju style of music, he has nonetheless been a seminal force in reinventing what has been established in Nigeria’s entertainment industry to date.
Blending the arts
Ebenzer Obey may have quit the popular music genre but he never falls short of his spectacular lyricism, which made him the darling of many a locale and international music enthusiast as well as the poster icon for generations of Nigeria’s music hopefuls. This is in spite of the trans-generational appeal of the current Hip Hop genre. His musical strength lies in weaving intricate Yoruba axioms into dance. It is a tribute to Obey’s musical artistry that he introduced Western drum kits and the transition of the music from a neo-traditional form to an urban social type.
Therefore, the likes of Evangelist Obey is needed now as a creative moral force who can create order out of chaos, happiness, concrete and abstract intimations of what the future may hold if we allied ourselves on the part of chastity and Godhead. Only a very few creative minds can do that. And such great minds constitute a gift to every race and generation. This is what Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey represents as a leading light in his generation.
Ebenezer Obey has been one of the most popular, prolific, and influential musicians in Nigeria, releasing over 100 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 music composed of layered guitars.
This is a clear testament to Ebenezer Obey’s genre as an ebullient Juju musician and a perfectionist who has used the mastery of instrumentality to wave his music like a sculpture to a rhyme that is uniquely his in the music or entertainment industry across the globe. It is this cast of symphonic music that stood Obey out among his peers in his artistic endeavour, having a particular form, content, technique or the like.
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.
Obey’s album on Governor Aregbesola titled: “Agent of Change” reawakens memories of his dazzling creativity and early achievements both as a Juju music champion and innovator, particularly his endless array of evergreen recordings that convinced the world that a guitar cradling Nigerian folk musician could often express as much as some of the the world’s greatest lyricists.
The Chief Commander holds tenaciously to the views that Nigerians are astutely a creative and thinking people who can excel in whatever endeavour they found themselves once such environment avail itself to them. This seems to be the atmosphere he believed Governor Aregbesola has created in Osun.
Ogbeni alluded to this in his appreciation of Ebenezer Obey’s mastery of the musical arts for appreciating his modest achievement as the governor of the state: “I was in primary school when Ebenezer Obey became a musical star. For a man of his status as he is fondly called, Chief Commander, he was a master composer, lyricist and master musician even before I become an adult. He has acquainted himself as a giant in the world of musical firmament. He is more now a minister of God than a musician. “I am encouraged by this testimony”, the governor said, as he asked for God’s endowment and more anointing on the Juju music king.
Agent of Change
There is no doubt that Chief Commander is a “Change Agent” himself. He has designated Governor Rauf Aregbesola as an “Agent of Change” who has enhanced the cause of humanity with his progressive education policies that brought tremendous human development in the last three and half years. Obey is conscious of the fact that education is the singular instrumentality or antidote to escaping from excruciating poverty.
It is therefore a rare honour to have an astute music generalissimo in the calibre of Ebenezer Obey to bend over backward and appreciate Ogbeni with an album for the repositioning of the governance of Osun State in particular, and South West in general. I used the word “bend over backward” consciously. In the last 30 years or thereabouts, the Chief Command has seized to praise-sing anyone apart from his Creator to whom he heeded his call to spread the gospel of Salvation.
Evangelist Obey broke from his sedative musical recesses to honour a man he called “actualiser”. “In order to show appreciation for what Governor Rauf Aregbesola has done in Osun State I chose to dedicate this musical album to urge Ogbeni to do more for his people, especially in the area of education”, Obey told reporters recently in Lagos. “If you see something that is good say it as it is. “It’s only God that blessed good leaders. I commend him for the service to his people.
For this reason I have waxed and presented 4,000 copies of CD of an album in which I encouraged him to do more so that other Nigeria leaders can take a cue from there. “Having demonstrated purposeful leadership, it is in our self-enlightened interests to urge ceaseless pro-people governance”, Obey said.
“You don’t need to be told that a thinker and reformist is at the saddle in Osun State any time you pass through Ile-Ife, Ilesa, Osogbo or any of the ancient cities or towns in the state”, he said. The roads I drive through each time I visit Osun State are more like the good ones I have seen anywhere in the world. I only wish God’s guidance for him to actualise his transformational goals to the letter amidst the happiness of his people.
This type of exaltation, even though it is the primary purpose of government to build roads, create jobs, protects lives and property and minister to the basic needs of the electorate has its own potency: it pushes the man in the saddle to do more and buoys others to follow suite. That is what Chief Commander’s appreciation of Governor Aregbesola has achieved.
Erasmus Ikhide wrote in from Lagos, Nigeria