•Evangelist EBENEZER OBEY’s Birthday Interview
In the next few weeks, Music Legend, Evang. Ebenezer Obey will be 81 and in a recent interview with City People, he revealed that he still composes songs every second, every minute, everyday. “Yes. Composition is part of me. That is my best area. Its a gift from God. It is very, very easy for me to do. I do it with ease”.
How does he retain the ideas that come to him constantly, so that he doesn’t forget the lyrics or the tunes? “I record it. Even in the midnight I record. I put it down in the midnight when I wake up, a song may just come, I take my phone and I record. I record all my ideas there”
Does he still do rehearsals with the band? “Oh yes, every week, once a week. We do weekly rehearsals. That continues.”
“Any successful artiste that shuns rehearsals cannot go far. My repertoires are all ever, ever green. But as they are, I have been rehearsing the same thing yearly, yearly, yearly. And I have been having new songs, yearly. We still rehearse my repertoire, my ever green music and we still compose new ones, up till now. This week now, I am going to have 2-days rehearsal.
Like I told you, what I do these days is that the younger ones, that I told you, they are like my grand children, there is a kind of teaching I give them. I like to teach them the secrets. What usually happens is: they are singing the song, they think they are singing the song, but they are not singing the song, right. They think they got it, but they don’t get it. Why is that so? Because they are just lazy. They are lazy. That is the difference between us – the old brigade and the new generation”.
Whenever one listens to Ebenezer Obey’s music in one particular track, a times there will be a noticeable high pitch and then in the same track you will step down to a low pitch. How do you fuse all of these together into one ever green song?
“What you have just described is music, good music. Nowadays, what they play in music is hot tempo. And you have to adapt to have hot tempo. Despite giving people hot tempo, people still want old music.”
“They request for it. They love it. They ask for it. So you have to be able to arrange your music in such a way that you fuse the 2 into your songs. The arrangement is key. You have to arrange any music you play. The arrangement is you must start it this way, the beginning must be this way, it must end this way. That is the difference in what we do. All those old numbers, people still request for it, people still like them, they prefer them. But in other to meet the choice of the present day taste for hot tempo, we give them that. But everybody seems to prefer the old numbers, the evergreen numbers.”
Why did he he call his kind of Juju Music, Miliki, is it because it is a soft tempo kind of music? “Miliki is a kind of enjoyment beat. E sa ma Miliki. It is Enjoyment that comes with ease, a kind of enjoyment that has both relaxation, and it gives you, the kind of relief, after you have worked very hard, it is a kind of enjoyment that makes you to forget about your stress. E sa ma miliki. Forget your sorrow, enjoy yourself. It comes with easy movement, it can be faster, but it is a kind of music that will make you to just enjoy yourself. That is why when people listen to music, they forget their sorrows.”
“What my music does to people is after you have relaxed, when you are left alone, the wordings soothes your soul. They comfort you. It teaches you a lot. It gives you hope, gives you encouragement, tells you about life, tells you that you don’t need to put all the worries, all the troubles of this world into your head. The wordings is a kind of sermon, words of encouragement, experience of life. There is no situation in life that my music has not touched. If you are passing through a particular experience you will put on the song, Fi mi lokan bale oluwa, gboro mi ro, dakun ma je ki nsise. It is comforting. It is prayerful. It goes with the words of God. There is no impossibility with God. So, relax, don’t worry. Take that out of your mind. Be hopeful. Believe. Work hard. Move on.
There is another song of mine. Nibiti Alagbara gbe nsise, to nse wahala, aro ti ko le dide a si maa rise. A raye ooo, e ma pa kadara mi da. It’s a personal prayer. You are talking to God. A pe mora eni, ni a npe temidire. There is another one. Ai mo asiko lo ndamu eda ooo, oro mi lowo Oluwa lo wa. It is a message, Hale, hale, ko le hale mo mi rara, mo ti ni a lafehinti, mo loluwa, Oro mi lowo oluwa lo wa. Ai mo asiko, lo ndamu eda ooo, oro mi lowo oluwa lo wa. It is a very deep song, deep lyrics. He is saying leave me, let me enjoy my life. I am struggling. I am working. I am not lazy. But I will be there. My time is coming. So, you have to continue to work, because you don’t know that time. It is when you are working, when you are moving, that is how you will move to get, to hit it big. You don’t sit down and do nothing and say you want to hit it big. God must have something in your hand that he wants to bless. You can’t just keep praying. Prayer is good, yes. It is very, very important. But you have to work. You can’t just sit down and not work. No.”
Each time, he composes music to eulogise people. It comes out usually rich and deep, with the required information. A lot of research, and hardwork goes into it, to be able to get all the details that is needed. How easy is it to compose for people and get the information that is needed. “It is very easy and simple for me,” he explains. “People just give me details of what they want and with that information, I will turn that into music. I do Special Releases a lot, to commemorate whatever they want. I will ask them what they want me to focus on and I will turn it into music”.
After collecting all the raw information that is needed, how do you turn it into music” How do you know the beat or the tune that goes with it? “That is my job. That is what I do. That is what I have been doing for over 60 years, to know that this tune must differ from the next tune, Mejeji ko gbodo jo ara won.
It starts with the client saying what he or she wants. After that I now have to decide on how to make it sound different. You have to customise it”. Some of my children and grandchildren are into music like Tolu. They are wonderful people. They all do their own thing and say to me grandpa help me to listen to it and fine tune. So, I teach them and encourage them. I just thank God. It is the gift of God.”
How come there are only few composers left in his generation and the new generation doesn’t have good composers? They play to the tune. How does he see this development? “It is sad. It is because they don’t want to work. They don’t want to work harder. They are taking things easy. They don’t want to do anything that is hard. That is why they are re-mixing the works of people like me. That is why I give the youths attention. I listen to them. I tell them. They are all doing very well. Music is a gift from God. I thank God for that. I like music with good Melody. You need good melody. Melody matters. Melody is key. Atimes you need to pay attention to the Melody. God has given me the gift of Melody. Like the Yorubas say, if someone is singing and the song is not sweet, the singer himself would also have heard that it is not sweet. Music is about Melody, Melody, Sweet Meloody. The music has to be melodious. It is the lyrics and the Melody that makes good. The 2 is very, very important. That is the gift God gave me and God has helped me. I started early. I started music at the age of 15 and I have been at it. Some of my granddchildren have taken after me and they started earlier than that now. I started at such an early age. This is the time to give back to society, to the young ones. That is why I set up my school in Abeokuta to train young artistes. That is a foundation. What assisted my career was my overseas tour, my UK tour in 1969. When I got to the U.K I was performing at weekends-Fridays and Saturdays. But my Boys had the opportunity to do some other work to make monies for themselves.”
“I didn’t work. I had to prepare for all the shows, cordinating. But I saw something. I observed something. I saw that those who had skills, like Bricklayers, Plumbers, Electrician, have money than the Alakowes who do office jobs. They were paying them hourly. They were paying them about 5 shillings a day.
– Seye Kehinde
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