It is celebration galore as Evangelist Ebenezer Obey Commander, MFR, Nigerian jùjú musician becomes an the octogenarian. He clocks 80 years of age. Obey was born on 3 April 1942 to an Egba–Yoruba ethnic background family. He is of the Owu subgroup of the Egba. Obey, whose real names are Ebenezer Remilekun Aremu Olasupo Fabiyi, was born in Idogo, Ogun State, Nigeria of Egba-Yoruba ethnic background. He is of the Owu subgroup of the Egba.
Evangelist Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi, known by the stage name “Chief Commander,” is a Nigerian musician, songwriter, bandleader, and public figure. He rose to prominence due to the sweetness of his baritone, the life lessons in his songs, the prolonged fusion of drums and guitar in his music, and his dexterity with the guitar. These qualities make Obey’s songs enjoyable by all — the old and young alike.
Ebenezer Obey grew up in Idogo, where he had his primary education. He got the moniker “Obey” during his duties as a class monitor and his habit of asking his fellow students to “obey” school rules and instructions. Early in life and as a child in his mom’s church, he showed inclinations towards music. According to the Chief Commander himself in an interview he granted The Vanguard, the musical processions in the mom’s church had a significant influence on him as a child, and he started showing signs of loving music since then.
Ebenezer Obey began his musical training-cum-career as a member of the school band at Methodist Primary School, Idogo. He quickly rose through the ranks to become the bandleader, and his time as a band member and then bandleader shaped him into a dexterous and harmonious music maker. Obey had always been a musical prodigy from the outset. As a young boy, he joined the Idogo Boys and Girls Club, and though he was the youngest member of the club, he was made the club’s bandleader.
These experiences in the two bands, coupled with the promotions he enjoyed, all thanks to his talent, convinced the young Obey that he was born to make music and make others happy through his music. For many years, he was the lead vocalist and bandleader for Idogo Boys and Girls Club, until members of the band left one after the other, and the band got dissolved. This led the resilient Ebenezer Obey to form his own band in 1957, which he named the “Ifelode Mambo Orchestra.” After some years, he changed the band’s name to “Royal Mambo Orchestra.” Obey enjoyed a good time as a bandleader in Idogo, but during this period, he was only getting semi-formal musical education, a self-teaching process of some sorts, which spun off his musical talent and potential.
Midway into his grammar school education, Ebenezer Obey moved to Lagos, and this relocation had one of the biggest effects on his career as a Juju musician. Before this, he had learnt to play the guitar and some other musical instruments like agidigbo, a Yoruba musical instrument that had few players, during his youthful days. Obey scored other agidigbo players’ music to get better at the art. His dexterity at playing the guitar and the agidigbo, coupled with his voice, made him the lead for many bands in Lagos. Apart from being the doyen of various bands, Obey also collaborated with some of the celebrated musicians of that time. He worked with Bangwoshe and Savage Orchestra, and it was during these years that he met the biggest influence on his musical career.
After his six years of tutelage under Fatai Rolling Dollar, Ebenezer Obey left the Federal Rhythm Brothers to form his own commercial band, which he named the International Brothers. But music was hardly ever anyone’s primary source of income then. Fatai Rolling Dollar combined his musical career with his work at the train station.
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.
The friendship and bond between the two men led to Obey joining the Federal Rhythm Brothers, Fatai Rolling Dollar’s band. This was where Obey received his formal tutelage as a musician, band player, guitarist, and agidigbo player. He enjoyed a good time with the Federal Rhythm Brothers, spending six years with the band. Fatai Rolling Dollar’s style influenced the style of Juju music that Ebenezer Obey later adopted, and this is one reason Fatai is called Ebenezer Obey’s mentor.
After his six years of tutelage under Fatai Rolling Dollar, Ebenezer Obey left the Federal Rhythm Brothers to form his own commercial band, which he named the International Brothers. But music was hardly ever anyone’s primary source of income then. Fatai Rolling Dollar combined his musical career with his work at the train station. In like manner, Ebenezer Obey managed two careers — musician and bandleader, and a clerk.
According to the Chief Commander, he did not poach members from Fatai Rolling Dollar’s band. The International Brothers comprised Oke Aminu, Obey’s alto backup singer; Samson Ogunlade, the bongos player; Vasco, the samba player; Gabriel Adedeji, who played bass guitar and agogo; and a host of others. These men were not just band members; they were Obey’s close allies, and he sang about many of them in his songs.
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.
We at the Celebration Galore wish Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey, super talented Nigerian musician, songwriter, bandleader, evangelist many happy returns of the day.
Leave a Reply