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, whose real name is Ebenezer Remilekun Aremu Olasupo Fabiyi, was born on 3 April 1942 in Idogo, Ogun State, Nigeria of Egba-Yoruba ethnic background. He is of the Owu subgroup of the Egba.

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-juju 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. 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 decades.

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.

 


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