His versatility in music composition has certainly endeared him to the world, as one of the best music composers. Despite the disability of not singing in a universal language, those who do not understand Yoruba still find it easy to dance to his music and the melody: “e waa gbo melody… mo tun gbe melody mi dee…” (Come and listen to melody, I have come with my melody).


In a society where we celebrate the dead, at the expense of the living, it is desirable to celebrate the living, who had impacted into our lives and essence.

In the music industry, Ebenezer Olasupo Remilekun Aremu Fabiyi-Obey is worthy of mention and deserving of accolades and encomiums.

Ebenezer Obey-Fabiyi did not create JuJu music, but he and some of his friendly competitors, gave JuJu music it’s soul, breath and life.

JuJu is a popular Nigerian music, derived from traditional Yoruba percussions. The name comes from the Yoruba word- JuJu or jiju- meaning- throwing or something being thrown.

Juju music is played in clubs, taverns, halls and at parties across Nigeria and its neighbouring countries of Republic of Benin, most especially the Yoruba speaking parts of Ajase-Ipo, Cotonou ,Ghana, the Gambia, Senegal etc.

JuJu was believed to have been created and popularised by Abdul Rafiu Adekunle king, popularly known as Tunde King who waxed his first JuJu Album in 1937, followed by some other itinerant musicians, most especially, the blind minstrel-Kokoro. Ayinde Bakare, also waxed his Juju album in 1937.

Life beamed into JuJu music, with the entry of Ernest Olatunde Thomas (Tunde Nightingale), an Ibadan native. Tunde Nightingale and his Agba Jolly Ochestra held regular performances at the West African Club, Ibadan. He pioneered Sowambe (is it there?) dance, possibly a reference to the beads (ileke) usually worn on the waist of dancing women. Despite sounding like a nightingale, he always kept a live bird in his house. Fatai Rolling dollars – who was from Ede but lived in Lagos, Dele Ojo, Ayinde Bakare, Adeolu Akinsanya (Baba Eto) and his Western Toppers Band, Victor Olaiya, I.K. (Isaac Kehinde) Dairo and his Morning Star Ochestra – later known as the Blue Sports Band, were early pathfinders. However, Ebenezer Obey and Sunny Ade made this genre the most popular music by bringing in spectacular innovations into it.

Then, JuJu was popular in places like Lagos, Abeokuta and Ibadan.

In the immigrant neighbourhoods of Ekotedo, Adamasingba and Mokola in Ibadan, and the Lagos city centres – particularly in their tavarns, dance halls, night clubs, hotels and brothels – JuJu began to compete heavily with the imported highlife music from Ghana.

This was the music that Ebenezer Obey popularised and took to a greater height, from the level of its forebears, and from obscurity to prominence.

Human life is certainly propelled by interests, talents, luck, opportunities and the ability to discover a deposited latent power. Ebenezer made a quick discovery of a life that would be dominated by music. Ebenezer was born on April 3, 1942, as Ebenezer Remilekun Aremu Olasupo Fabiyi in Idogo, in the Egbado division of present day Ogun State, to Abigail Oyindamola Abeke Toriola Fabiyi, an owu woman from Ago Owu, Abeokuta and Nathaniel Olaseewo Fabiyi, an Egba man, from Keesi in Abeokuta.

The circumstances surrounding his birth were quite interesting, amazing and divinely inspired. Abigail, his mother, was earlier married for over 20 years to her first husband, without the fruit of the womb. She had travelled round the northern part of Nigeria with her husband, as wife of a senior station manager (SSM) with the Nigerian Railways, before they finally settled in Lagos. At a meeting, the family of her first husband proclaimed her barren, and advised that she sought her fortunes elsewhere. This shocking news was almost a death sentence to her, being suddenly discharged from a man she had married and being with for over 20 years. The family however acknowledged that she was a good woman, but to them, what was the value of a good woman without the fruit of the womb? She was distraught and melancholic. But a man of God had told her that God’s mercy endures forever and she would eventually be blessed with her own children.

The Chief Commander and I

Thereafter, Madam Abigail Oyindamola Abeke left Lagos for Idogo, an agrarian community and Railways train station, in Egbado, in present day Ogun State, whose farm produce usually crashed the prices of agricultural commodities, food stuffs, vegetables, yams etc. in mainland Lagos, on market days, whenever the Idogo train (Oko Idogo) came into Lagos. In melancholy, she had moved to Idogo to stay with her elder brothers, who were farmers.

Around this period, Nathaniel Olaseewo Fabiyi, a carpenter and farmer, had also relocated to Idogo from Lagos. It was in Idogo that Nathaniel Fabiyi met Abigail, his friend’s sister. Jovial and rich in the Egba dialect, he had jokingly proclaimed himself husband of Abigail and mentioned that he was aware of her story. He further prophesied that Abigail would give birth to both male and female children for him. To her, it was infra (infra dignitatem) for the ex-wife of a senior Railways station manager to marry a carpenter. But nonetheless, they became husband and wife, and she gave birth to her first child, Ebenezer Obey’s elder sister. And because that miraculous delivery was a product of God’s grace, she pleaded with Fabiyi that the child should be called Grace (Anuoluwamipo) Olasumbo Fabiyi.

Grace was almost 80 years when she died. The birth of Grace heralded another child, a bouncing baby boy, who was instantly named Ebenezer (God has helped me thus far) – (titi de yin, l’oluwa ran mi lowo de) – with the permission of her husband, who also gave him the additional names of Olasupo, Remilekun, Aremu.

In Idogo they lived in a rented apartment – the first storey building in town. Coincidentally, Fabiyi was the carpenter who roofed the house. Shortly after Ebenezer’s birth, Fabiyi returned to and disappeared into Lagos, where he already had two other wives, and would not show up in Idogo until after seven years. As a matter of fact, Ebenezer did not meet his father properly, until he was seven years old.

In the intervening period, Abigail made tremendous success in her cloth-selling business (becoming Iya Alaso). She then decided to build her own house in Idogo, and the neighbour who assisted her, became her next husband. From the union, she gave birth to her third child, named Clement Oluseye Olusegun Alani Kembi, who died in November 2018, at the age of 73.

In parenthesis and as an inspiring juxtaposition, Zulikat Wuraola Abiola, an Egba woman, was the mother of the late Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. She got married to a man in Ikirun, in present day Osun State, and for several years the marriage bore no fruit of the womb, making her also to be pronounced a barren woman. She was advised to move back to her home town of Abeokuta to seek a new pasture.

In Abeokuta, she was introduced to Salawu Abiola, who had also suffered the lose of 22 children (abikus) who died in infancy. Salawu, then of advanced age, heard of Wuraola’s case too, and decided to marry her, at least, if for nothing else, but companionship. Wuraola instantly became pregnant and gave birth to a bouncing baby boy, who was given an “abiku” name – Kashimawo, meaning: let’s watch and see if this one would stay.

In school, Ebenezer, being a class monitor, was nicknamed “Obey…” i.e. Obey first, before complaint, being his usual admonition when punishing a rebellious student. The name “Obey” then stuck. With the added name, making his description to become ‘Ebenezer Obey’, he relocated to Lagos.


Kashimawo stayed and was only given other names – Moshood, Olawale – when he was 13 years, his parents then being assured that he would stay. Kashimawo, like Ebenezer, also became hugely successful. They eventually became brothers and soul mates. Kshimawo became a business partner and, perhaps, mentor of Ebenezer’s music and both bought over the record company, Decca West Africa Ltd.

In his life time, Salawu was always happy that the very first time he would enter an aircraft, it was Kashimawo’s own.

Ebenezer grew up in Idogo, which discovered him and his musical talent.

Ebenezer went to Methodist Primary School, Idogo and later finished at the Methodist Secondary Modern School, Asero, Abeokuta, in 1958.

In primary school, he was a band leader, and subsequently a member of the choir in Methodist Church, Idogo.

Obey and his friends later formed the Idogo Boys and Girls’ Club and also Ifelodun Mambo Orchestra in 1957, which finally gave birth to the Royal Mambo Orchestra. Abigail noticed the musical talent in Ebenezer and dissuaded him from taking to music as a career, but that he should rather become a lawyer or doctor (Ise ti mama miba mi da moran ki nse). His mother told him that in their family, people sing their praises and not vice versa: “Kiki ni won ma nki wa ni’le wa, awa kii ki eniyan.” However, after much pleading, Abigail gave Ebenezer her blessings, as no one knew tomorrow, as she put it then (Mama lo so wipe, ko se ni keni, to mo ojo ola).

In school, Ebenezer, being a class monitor, was nicknamed “Obey…” i.e. Obey first, before complaint, being his usual admonition when punishing a rebellious student. The name “Obey” then stuck. With the added name, making his description to become ‘Ebenezer Obey’, he relocated to Lagos.

In Lagos, he got a job as a clerk on a monthly wage of three pounds (£3) and lived in Bolade Oshodi, Lagos. With his savings, he was able to buy a guitar, and by this time, he already regarded himself as a star.

It was in Bolade Oshodi that he saw two itinerant singers, Akinyomi Savage and Bamgbose Jumoda, who he later helped to secure an amplifier for a show and then became a part-time member of their band, with a rewarding earning of two pounds (£2) per show and five shillings every day for feeding. It was through J.O Araba, an Agidigbo musician, that he met Fatai Rolling Dollar, a minstrel and roving guitarist. Their relationship led to the formation of the Fatai Rolling Dollar band, which Obey helped to put together. Yet, in 1964, he formed his own band, Ebenezer Obey and his International Brothers Band, which started with Samson Ogunlade, Vasco Da-gama, Salawu, Oke Aminu and others.

Obey had difficulties in getting a musical promoter/label. But after much hassles, he signed on with Decca West Africa limited in Abibu Oki, Lagos.

He married Juliana Olaide Olufade, his heartthrob, in 1963. Juliana died on August 23, 2011, leaving behind several children and grandchildren.

Because of Obey’s insistence that he was not only a present but also future star, the managing director of Decca West Africa, Mr. C.K Kres, showed interest in his music and career.

His first album, Ewa wo ohun oju ri sold 506 copies in 1964, after the MD of Decca had ordered for 25 copies to enable Ebenezer Obey secure future patronage, by hitting the target of 500 copies. He actually sold 481 copies.

His second album, Olomi Gbo Temi (my dearest wife, listen to me), witt he following lyrics: “baby mi, jowo jeka jo ma gbadun/Aya to mo yayi lo nsefe Oko re/telegan ba ntan e, ko ma ma see gba”, was a slight improvement. His third album, Palongo, which he also released in 1965, gave him breakthrough and commercial success.

As a result of this commercial success, Obey began experimenting with the Yoruba percussion style, expanding the band by adding more guitars, drum kits and talking drums.

Obey’s musical dexterity lies in weaving intricate Yoruba axioms, idioms and proverbs into danceable music. He started with small albums (SLPs) and later brought in big albums (BLPs). His music sold 500,000 copies for which he received a gold award, and later on one million copies, for which he was given the platinum award.

After a London trip, and in the early 70s, Obey changed the name of the band from ‘International Brothers’, to ‘Inter Reformers’, and his fans named him “Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey.”

In, “Oro Kan Ni Mo Fe Bi Yin”, he spoke of the complexity of relationships and the dilemma of choice, in terms of how people would respond when asked to make a choice between their parents and spouses: “ninu obi eni, pelu aya eni, ewo lo se pataki to se koko?” Obey’s vote was for the parents.


In 1966, when Chief Obafemi Awolowo returned from prison, after the military take over, he produced an album, Awolowo, Baba Wa Ti De, to welcome him back home. In 1987, when Chief Awolowo died, he also released another album to mark his exit, Aaa a o ma se, Ile Njeniyan (What A Great Loss!)

In 1968, Obey had a hit album, Ore Mi E Se Pele Pele. He also released, Gbe Be Mi Oluwa, Olowo Laiye Mo” (Answer My Prayers Oh Lord) and followed this with further commercially successful albums, and in 1970, Ala T’aja Ba La”; in 1971, Ija Pari, to mark the end of the civil war; in 1972, Aiye Wa a Toro; in 1973, The Horse, The Man and His Son; in 1974, Eko Ila; in 1975, Mukulu Muke Maa Jo, etc., which all entrenched his standing as a major artist in the music industry.

Obey had once said of his music: “My lyrics are beneficial to society, either in form of prayers or good wishes,” and also, that his lyrics are meaningful, “with moral lessons and philosophy.”

Obey’s music also brought in his trail, petty envies and jealousy.

He was said to have drank “lukudi” (a local fetish preparation, for wealth) as “Ogun Owo” and that he had undergone surgery, when a mysterious bird flew out of his tummy.

In London, on a musical tour, he was said to have planted Marijuana (Igbo) in his musical instruments. He had a rich musical band, comprising Samson Ogunlade, Vasco Da-Gama and Oke Aminu, who died on Saturday, August 25, 1972, in a motorcycle (vespa) accident in Lagos. Aminu had left for his house to change his clothes to the uniform outfit worn by other members of the band, as Obey was a stickler for band discipline. Oke Aminu died on his way back to join the show.

Mitui Kekere, Gabriel Adedeji, Giwa Ojo Arigidi, Matthew Baba L’Egba, Akanbi Oloye, Monday John, Bode Akiwowo, were also band members.

Obey does the praise-singing of people, inclusive of non-Yorubas like Michael Inegbese, Alhaji Danjuma in Agege, Osawaru Igbinedion, Alhaji Shehu Arikose in Ajase-Ipo, (Republic of Benin), Samuel Ogundele Adedoyin, Abiola Ogundokun, Chief M.K.O Abiola, in three different albums, and a host of others tracks, which also served as advertisement to his fans.

These adverts include those for Remo Carpets, Teju Foams, for Datsun 120, 140, 160, 180 cars on behalf of Alhaji Arisekola Alao, for Lawyer Omoni, and Yinka Rhodes. There was also the praise-singing of Board Members, including Odunaike, Insurance Controller; Adewuyi, Barrister Folly Tairu, Bode Osinusi, Chief Samuel Okunowo, Bisi Lola Edionsere, Henry Fajemirokun and a host of others. In these praise-singing, he also had philosophical muses, such as: Owu alantakun, ko seni ti o le fi ranso (nobody can sew clothes with cobwebs); “kini mama alaso nta to ye’gba dani, abi ewure nje lace ni?: i.e.- what is a cloth seller doing with cane or do goats eat lace materials?; and that God gives wealth: “Nibi ta l’agbara gbe tin sise, to nse wahala, aro ti o le dide a si ma rise.”

In his album, Ketekete: the Man, the Son and the Horse, he had also philosophically advised that one can never please the world!

Also, he advised people not to bury their talents: “Ma se ri talent re mo le…” and gave examples of footballers like Teslim Thunder Balogun, Haruna Ilerika, and the althletes Deji Obayemi and Dupe Osikoya. He advised his fans to take it easy: “Ore mi, ese pele pele (easy does it) and be careful of being extremely generous, “so re ni wan”. He also, in his 1983 hit album, emphasised and encouraged hardwork: “Saa maa sise gba ti gbogbo eniyan ko re jo kaluku ni baba pase fun pe sii se, looni”

In, “Oro Kan Ni Mo Fe Bi Yin”, he spoke of the complexity of relationships and the dilemma of choice, in terms of how people would respond when asked to make a choice between their parents and spouses: “ninu obi eni, pelu aya eni, ewo lo se pataki to se koko?” Obey’s vote was for the parents.

In further trying to unknot the issue philosophical, he pointed out in “Eniyan Ti Mo Feran Ju”, he gives preference to one’s mother, then father, wife and finally children (iya, baba, iyawo, omo… i.e.) in that order of importance…

Obey does enormous praise-singing and Christian praise worships in his music.

He sings in sweet melody: “Baba wa tin be ni orun” (Our Father who hath in heaven); “Oluwa ni agbara mi” (the Lord is my strength); “Oluwa ni o, oluso aguntan mi, emi, ki yoo sala i ni o” (the Lord is my shephard); and “a njade lo loni”, as an early morning prayerful wish; also, “Mo ma yin oluwa titi laiye” (I will praise the Lord forever), and a number of inspiring gospel songs.

Obey also does Miliki, “e sa ma Miliki o/ko ma rotate lo o were were/ko ma circulate lo o were were…”

He does daily prayers, he sings of love, and he sang the Paulina story in the Bar Beach, Lagos, episode.nPaulina was a ravishingly beautiful lady, who he saw at the Bar Beach on the Marina. He sang: “Mori sisi kan ni Marina to ni nkaloo…”

At the peak of Obey’s musical career, he heeded God’s call and for 17 years he was completely out of secular music and was majorly involved in the Decross Evangelical Ministry. He was in the ministry and he never looked back.


Obey says: “I was love struck, I lifted her off her feet, singing about her bewitching beauty.”

Obey also sang with a sexual innuendo in: “Ina ma wa tan o, Akanbi, 2ce O pe mi wole o…/o tilekun mo mi/o ti lekun mo mi ofa’ro idi mi/terepa ba d’oyun o, Obey lo loyun oo jare…”

(The lady said he asked me inside, asked me to put off my clothes, and to these, obey said- “when I was a youth, I behaved as a youth.”)

Yes, Obey sang praises of Olanrewaju Omo Badmus, Larry Publicity and Estate Consultant, Fatai Irawo. In 1972, the music legend celebrated Olabisi Ajala in his eighth album, Board Members. He also celebrated the Association of Brothers – UP ASSO.

Obey sang the praises of Olabisi Ajala in the Album, thus:

“Ajala travel all over the world (2ce)/Ajala travel (2ce)/Ajala travel(2ce)/Ajala travels all over the world/Alajala mi Omo olola/A’la Ajala mi Oko Alhaja shade/Alhaja los’obokun fun alajala/emi meje o/emi meje.”

After a successful music career, the yearning to serve God in HIS vineyard became real and apparent and this call was spiritually confirmed by the late Archbishop Benson Idahosa.

At the peak of Obey’s musical career, he heeded God’s call and for 17 years he was completely out of secular music and was majorly involved in the Decross Evangelical Ministry. He was in the ministry and he never looked back.

He had troubled and challenging moments; for instance he lost a factory in Ota, Ogun State, which produced cassettes. The company was into debt and he had to sell three of his houses to offset the mortgage. He also bought shares and stocks that went bad.

There was then, another interface in Obey’s life. He had a programme in London with the late Myles Munroe, where they both ministered. There was a concert after the ministration. On the day of the concert, according to Ebenezer Obey, “when I was performing, a lot of people turned out and thoroughly enjoyed the atmosphere. So after my performance, he collected the microphone from me and told me that music is my ministry. He said God told him to inform me not to quit music, because that is my ministry. He said it was what God had wanted me to do. He further advised me to preach less, but sing more, that I should preach through music. I prayed about it and that was how we started special appearances. That was when I began to charge fees ranging from N2.5 million and above and before I knew it, I had made millions. I would take a million for my ministry and the remaining would be shared between me and the band. When you listen to GOD, HE would always provide for you.”

Obey has had a chequered and distinguished career. He said: “whenever I hear my music being played, it is like looking into the mirror. Whenever I hear my voice, I tell myself, that is me sounding, that is me singing.”

Obey says of his musical adventure: “I am the musician that has the largest number of music tracks, of music released. I agree with the research.”

His versatility in music composition has certainly endeared him to the world, as one of the best music composers. Despite the disability of not singing in a universal language, those who do not understand Yoruba still find it easy to dance to his music and the melody: “e waa gbo melody… mo tun gbe melody mi dee…” (Come and listen to melody, I have come with my melody).

According to him: “If you do not understand the language, once you hear the melody, you start to nod your head and move your hand, that means the music has entered your body.”

Ebenezer Obey, currently a professor of music at the Ogun State University, Ago-Iwoye, is a recipient of the National Award and Doctor of Philosophy at the Oral Roberts University, U.S.A.

Life, certainly defines roles, labyrinths and its contours, and has defined that of Ebenezer Obey as a singer, band leader, composer, guitarist, philosopher and a man after God’s own heart. The album celebrating his 70th birthday in 2012, Obey At 70, was also a masterpiece, after a very long absence.

Ebenezer Olasupo Remilekun Aremu Fabiyi-Obey, stand up and take your evergreen medal at 77. May you continue to enjoy your life, in good and robust health and continuous prosperity.

Femi Kehinde, a former member of the House of Representatives, is principal partner in a law firm based in Ibadan, Lagos and Abuja.