Not many people know that King Sunny Ade and Evangelist Ebenezer Obey are very close. Infact only few people know that whenever KSA feels bored, he will just drive to Obey’s house unannounced to greet him and both of them will chat endlessly for hours before he leaves.
That is how close they are. Only very few also know that Obey and KSA started out around the same time, as struggling artistes, with KSA being part of Moses Adejumo (Baba Sala’s group) and Obey was part of Fatai Rolling Dollars group as a band member.
These and many more were the stories KSA told City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE at the 75th birthday of Commander Ebenezer Obey a few years back. Many were surprised to see Obey choose KSA to be the main artiste on the bandstand.
KSA had arrived early to kick start the reception end of the Thanksgiving. He did the opening performance made up of about 7 popular gospel songs. And KSA was at his best. He sang a special song for Obey in which he called Obey, “My Padi” (meaning friend). How did Obey & KSA hit it off as friends? KSA explained it all in this interview.
At this 75th birthday anniversary for Ebenezer Obey you have been up and doing. You have been very active. Many people didn’t know that KSA and Ebenezer Obey are these close…
Oh yes we are very, very close. Let me start by wishing my friend and brother Evangelist Ebenezer Obey a happy birthday. I thank God for the journey mercies. I also thank you for all the support you’ve given King Sunday Ade and my friend Ebenezer Obey.
I recall that you supported the launch of my radio station, you came to visit me in Ondo before the launch of the station and all your contributions to everything connected to King Sunny Ade. I appreciate you very much.
You are here to celebrate with Evangelist Ebenezer Obey.
Many people don’t know that you and him are very close… Tell us how close.
We are. Its only you the media that do not know. From day one, I don’t know how God made it, I always like to go to him, even before we all became band leaders. I was under Moses Olaiya, Baba Sala. He was with Papa Fatai Rolling Dollars.
We normally meet, band boys to band boys. We normally play at Bondary Hotel at Idi-Oro. It was between the boundary of Lagos and the West at that time. His band used to play there. Ebenezer Obey was under Fatai Rolling Dollars then.
We used to relate. Later on when Ebenezer Obey became Band Boy we used to still relate. He led the former boys of Fatai Rolling Dollars and they were not new to me. As time went on I realised that it was the people that made it appear as if we were fighting. We didn’t quickly know. It was very late by the time we knew we realised at the end of the day that it was the recording company who were trying to create that.
And the outsiders were looking at it as if we are fighting. So eventually we didn’t know in time until it got to a time when fans were fighting. Anytime I play somewhere they will come and fight. Anytime he plays, they will go to the other side and fight.
Then we decided to meet to discuss it.
I went to Ebenezer Obey’s house to meet and I said to him that I came purposely to sit down and find a lasting solution to this problem. We began to discuss when are we going to be playing at our night clubs. He has Miliki Spot while I had Q Club, former Banuso Inn.
When I got the place we changed it to Q Clubs. You can imagine that because of our friendship, we were on the same street, about 1 metre to each other at Yaba there.
What I noticed is that once I begin to play in another 1 to 2 hours there will be a misundersting and a fight will break out between our people. And within a twinkle of an eye they will be telling one they are fighting at the other and again ooo at Ebenezer Obeys Miliki Spot.
I will say Haaa! What will I do? How can I resolve it? What can we do? I decided one day. He was playing. And we were coming from a show. And I decided to burst into the show. The members of my band were in already. They are all friends with the members of Obeys band. The two band members are friends.
When we are together we used to ask ourselves why are people fighting over Obey & Sunny. My belief is we don’t play the same music. But we thank God these 2 stars grew up about the same time. Its like a tree or plant that grew up the same time.
So I popped in that day. Many could not believe it. There was so much noise, everywhere was charged.
Unknowingly to Ebenezer Obey I went to meet him on stage. The whole place was charged up like today. Those who are in favour shouted in support.
The whole thing calmed down after about 30 minutes. That was the time I recorded that album Oro Tonlo, Eba Wa Kiyeesi, Oro Tonlo Lowo, Efi Oju Agba Wole. Ti Sunny Ade Ba Nkorin, Won Ani Obey lo n ba wi. Bi Obey ba korin tie, nwon ani Sunny lon bawi. Oro yi o sele. Ko sele rara. Oro jatijati awa ko gbodo gbo mo….
Sunny o beni kan ja, Obey ko ba enikan binu. Aye e dake iso kuso.
At a point I went to Baba I.K. Dairo (May his soul rest in peace) and I called on him that he should arrange for a meeting for us about what is happening.
Between our fans. I told them to come and preside over a meeting with us.
So that the fans will understand that both of us have agreed not to fight at shows.
Baba IK Dairo called Baba Adeolu Akinsanya he called Haruna Ishola and one person. We went to their office in Yaba, opposite Adekunle Police Station.
So we all met there and they settled the rift between our fans, that they should see themselves as one just as we, Obey and I see ourselves.
After that I sang for him. He then sang for me.
The truth is there is no way I can dissociate myself from Ebenezer Obey because I have never experienced 2 musicians reigning at the same time and we don’t have fights between us. The band boys of the 2 stars don’t fight. They don’t quarrel.
They too are friends. It is only the fans and it is our duty to curb the fans. We had to talk to them. So that is how Obey and I have been handling our relationship. It is usually very strange to people whenever they see me with him.
They will say, haaa, are these not the 2 people who they say are fighting” we now realized at a point that one of our Elders and Fathers, Baba Bolarinwa Abioro and his African Songs used to release records.
At that time we used to release every 3 to 4 months. We used to released records.
Let me just say this. We thank God that Obey and I are great friends. Nobody settles fights for us. Despite that one, on our own, organized the elders to preside over a meeting that will suggest as if there is a fight that they want to settle.
But it was meant to be a strategy targeted at our fans, for them to see that if the 2 stars are friends. Why should they, the fans, be fighting. We’ve never had a quarrel, or shouting match. This elders meeting was around 1972/1973.
From that time our fans had been behaving. So, I am Obeys friend. He is my friend.
Let me tell you a secret today that I have never told anyone. I remember when I wanted to get out of African Songs, (My record label) I first of all went to him before I took the decision.
I went to his house and I told him, this is what is happening and this is what I want to do, because I don’t want to do it and you (Obey) will then say why didn’t you tell me.
Then I asked him, what do you think?
What do you advice? Because I have already made up my mind. He said Sunny lets do it this way, go and meet all the friends of Chief Abiola and tell them. Make sure you get to them. I said “If it is what you think I would do it. And I did I went from house to house to tell them.
I started at that time with General Adebayo. I went to Chief Lekan Salami in Ibadan. I went to Chief Ojowo Ojoko, the Charity Transport. I went to Osinjinrin, the Charity Transport too.
I went to all the club members. I went to his own lawyer. The club is called AWAM Men Society. I did a record with their name Egbe Awawa Men Society. It is called Awawa in Yoruba. I went to all of them.
And what they all told me is they will talk to Chief Abioro.
I should not worry. I am happy that Obey stood by me. He didn’t say he does not know me or that I did not consult him before I took that decision. He said to the whole world at that time that yes, Sunny Ade came to me to consult me for advice and I told him to go and meet all Chief Abioro’s friends.
That is one thing I appreciate in him. One thing I can never forget in the history of my musical career as long as I am still living on this planet is what I told him one day.
That day I went to his house. He didn’t even know I was coming. He was living at Papa Ajao at that time. I went in and knocked. They said he is sleeping I said they should please help me wake him up.
I told him I only need 5 minutes of his time after which I will leave. They woke him up. He said haa!. Sunny what is wrong I hope there is no serious problem? I said. Noo. I said lets sit down. I said e je ka joko. You see from day one I have been using e e e for him in Yoruba.
That was before I even knew his age that he was older than me. I love Yoruba language and by tradition you have to respect people, especially those older than you. Even when I use e e e for the younger ones, they will say No, sir. Don’t use e e e for me.
In this case, I went to him, I said Commander, people fought at your night clubs the very day you played. People fought at my night club the same day I played at mine. Its because we both play on the same day. Let us change days. And he said, Sunny Ade what do you think we can do.
He said lets throw a coin. At that time the coin was one shilling. I said he should throw it up. He said he will take Head and I will take Tail.
We agreed that whoever is taking Head is the one that will change his day of performance to another day. Then, he threw it and it was Head. So he was the one to change the day he plays and he changed it. I am not sure any musician can change that. I was also ready to change to another day if I had lost to let peace reign. Its because of my love for Yoruba music.
He decided that he will change his own date to Thursday. Before we threw the coin we both played every Wednesday. I said if you want to change your date to Thursday, whats my role. Will you allow me to be telling the whole world.
He said yes now. Go ahead we have already changed. I don’t want my fans to fight and I don’t want your fans to fight.
We were talking about this issue when we heard a very big bang on his door. We checked it was Olabisi Ajala, (Ajala Trail). It was him. He shouted from outside: Sunny, I know you and Obey are inside.
Open the door. I want to join you. You guys will be behaving as if you don’t like yourselves. Then you sit inside and we your fans will be fighting. I will tell everybody that you guys are friends and you are only deceiving.
That very evening he reported us to many people and it was in the evening news. That really helped. He told people that these 2 people are only deceiving fans. That we are friends.
He didn’t know that what he was spreading around was indeed goodnews which we wanted to spread ourselves. We didn’t open the door. We didn’t allow him to know whether we are in or not we felt if we allow him in, we won’t be able to conclude and resolve it. You can see what I love in Ebenezer Obey. Here we are today.
Many don’t know that Obey & I have been there for each other. Whenever he has events I usually perform and whenever I have event he is there for me.
When he lost his father, I was the one who played there. People didn’t believe I will come. That was when people began to notice our association and friendship.
When he was celebrating his children’s marriage, wedding I went. I attended twice. So the whole world started noticing that these 2 people are close, the best thing is to listen to their record, we don’t need to fight again it is part of what we normally tell the younger ones. Then don’t need to fight. I was once PMAN President.
When I took up the role I went round the houses of many musicians to galvanise them. I kept visiting them one by one. I was knocking on their doors. That was in 1982. But in the 70s I found a way to have an association of musicians. Before then we had Nigerian Musicians Union. But they tore the certificate which means it is not in existence anymore. Then we don’t have anyone except the RATTAW.
Its a government thing and the public. I wanted an Association not Union. I started knocking on the doors of their houses. Whether they wanted to see me or not I kept knocking on doors.
I kept saying please, I need to eat I will say in Yoruba Funmi ni onje it was very strange. I galvanised the artistes. Let’s come together. If you want to poison me go ahead. People know I am in your house. Just pray that your record will sell. Just pray to let your star shine. Thats what you need. And pray to be loved by people. Thats it.
When I lost my mother Ebenezer Obey stood by me. We wore the same dress. We were together all through. When he had his children wedding we wore similar clothes. He is one of the musicians that has to be emulated. Uptil now, when I did my 60th anniversary I came again. That was about 11 years ago. The President came.
When I lost my mother he came. Now, when I became 70 he came all the way from Abeokuta here to Ondo. He spent about 3 days. Then who am I not to come for his 75th. I came back to Nigeria, Saturday afternoon from the US because I would not be able to push. I tried to push the date of my son’s wedding but I was unable to shift the day.
So I travelled to the US immediately I witnessed it I rushed back. if I don’t come people will believe, wrongly so, that something is missing. He too will think how come Sunny Ade is not here? when I am not dead when I am not in captivity. We thank God. What I can say about Commander Ebenezer Obey is that he is a good man. He is a Godly man.
Both of you have had a successful career, despite the fact that you play Juju. How come Sunny’s music did not affect Obey’s music?
Its God its not us. Our music is quite different on my own, when I came into the music fold I looked at it: who am I going to emulate now? I must start from somewhere. Then, I used to call myself SUNNY ADE & His All Weather band.
Why did you call it All Weather Band?
Because I can play any kind of music. I can play I.K. Dairo’s music I can play Tunde Nightingale. I can play Highlife But I was trying to find a way of what to do or the right kind of name for my kind of music.
I said to myself one day that in as much as Tunde Nightingale is the only one that has been playing that style I will emulate that style. Then, I will combine what I have in mind with other music to go with it.
Occasionally, I didn’t want to play the same kind of guitar so I found a way of having my own style of guitar. So, my kind of guitar, the way I sing is different. When I started playing that and I saw people dancing I said now this is nice, this is the way oh. This is what I will be doing. So, from there I started my own.
When he started his own, he had juju and also highlife and combined it. He didn’t tell me this is what he did ooo. This is what I feel. If you look at tracks like Olomi oo jowo jeka jo mi a gbadun. And he has others like Ore mi se pelepele. Ti a ye ban fe ee, rora jaye ooo.
Its a combination of Juju and Highlife. I have my own line. He has his own line. We don’t play the same kind of music. Though we started about the same time, we play different music. We rose up at the same time.
KSA also has a stage performance that is different from Obeys own?
Oh yes. Its quite different, I just had it in mind that I don’t want any rift between the fans I don’t want to be accused of dancing like this or like that or dancing like Obey. No. This is Sunday. That is Obey.
How did you take the allegation made then that Juju was dying?
I never believed in it. He went into Gospel music. About that time I wanted to say I wanted to stop stage show. And we would only be recording.
I just decided that I want to go into filming I wanted to start doing films because I was the first to do music video especially in the Juju music sector in Nigeria. But unfortunately when I put this piece of news into the press, they turned it to mean King Sunny Ade does not want to play again.
So all my fans all over the world got angry thousands of them said if you say you retire who is going to be paying you pension? Every year, 1st day of the new year some my fans normally have their own consolation or kind of decide what they want to do in the year.
We normally play at the 31st of December at Railway Recreation Club. People will come from all over the world to come and celebrate. They will gather in the 31st and pray to God to usher in the new year.
When I reflect on all these, it makes me so happy that we are still alive and kicking. When Ebenezer Obey went into the Ministry, he went for about 18 years. So, all the pressure was on my head. I kept trying my best. When he now returned I said thank God I have got another Assistant to assist me. When he was away all eyes were on me, the pressure was on me.
He became a new assistant to me again. So we were able to balance it out. When you don’t see Sunny Ade, you will see Obey. So, we thank God. We are here today.
At over 70, KSA still dances on the stage. Where do you get the energy from?
It is God. When I hear good music I always want to dance on the stage. When I hear good music I am on. When I play my music and I see people I want to dance for them 1st.
When I see them dancing again, mine will be double. I thank God that he is the one that is doing it. I don’t know where the energy comes from. I love what I do best and I respect my profession.
Does KSA have any plans of slowing down or retiring?
I don’t want to say anything again because if I say Yes or No, my fans won’t take it lightly from me again. As long as I still have my energy in place, my ability to sing, to dance and move the crowd I will keep on doing it.