Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey is 79. He turned 79 last weekend 3rd April, 2021. Before his birthday, the Management of City People Magazine paid him a courtesy visit, to also tell him about our 25th Anniversary. He is one of the important personalities whose relationship with City People has impacted positively on the Magazine. As part of our plans to celebrate our 25th Anniversary, Evangelist Ebenezer Obey was one name that ranked top. This is because this music icon has been very supportive of the 25-year-old magazine. He is one of our loyal readers and great supporters.
And so on Thursday 4th February, the Management team of City People visited the grand old man of music, who in those good old days was called Obey Commander by his fans. Well before the appointed time of 3 pm. Baba Obey was already seated in his expansive sitting room and he was online responding to all the messages that had piled up on his phone. Of course, his 2 telephone sets have his caller tunes and give it to Baba Obey at 79 he is IT Compliant. It is on his phone that he records his composition.
It was after the speeches that City People’s 3 Management members, made up of Publisher SEYE KEHINDE, his Deputy FRANCIS OWOJORI and Alhaji WAHAB, the Head of the Online Department grilled Baba Obey for over 60 minutes selling to know the staying power of this Living Legend. It was an exciting session. Below are excerpts.
Since we were in school, we have all been hearing about Ebenezer Obey. And now in 2021, Ebenezer Obey is still very active in music. What is your staying power? Can you tell us the success story of Ebenezer Obey after about 60 years of active musical career?
The Grace of God. The fact that God has given me Grace. I have been in music now for over 60 years. That is a very long time and I have been a very hardworking person. I am committed to what I am doing. Despite the success, I still continue to rehearse. I am always on the move because this is what I know how but to do and God has crowned my efforts with brilliant success. So, I am used to moving on and God has been on my side. It is the Grace of God and the mercy of God has sustained me.
I am one man who believes that as long as we live on this Earth, we must continue to contribute our Quota, by allowing the masses and giving the masses the confidence. There are certain things that the masses have seen in Obey. I am loved by many and I don’t want to disappoint all those who are my fans. That is the reason and I believe that I am discharging my duty, so as to make people happy, and to see that you don’t know success to get the better part of you, because when you have success and you sit down, wherever you are, others will overtake you and they will forget you. But you will become relevant when you always do your best. When you do your best the fans and the masses will appreciate what you are doing. That is why Obey is in the minds of so many people. Thank God for that. It is the mercy of God. It is the Grace of God, and me, on my part, I am not resting on my oars. I am always moving. Thanks for the strength to do all those things.
At 79, do you still compose?
You mean do I still compose music? Haa! I do ooo. That is my area of strength. That is what I do every time, all the time. People approach me for special releases and I do that for them, because they know that I am a good composer and the way I render those services to them one always differs from the other. They are not the same thing, even when I sing the same song for them, I thank God.
How do those compositions come to you?
Different composition comes on diverse ways. I believe in quietness. Because the life of a celebrity is a busy one. You are always in the news, people want to see you, they want to know what you are doing. You are the focus of the people. I like where there is quietness. You won’t believe it, that when I am in the toilet, that is where I do a lot of composition because that is a place that nobody can come and disturb me. I am bye myself and even when I am doing that, it gives me the opportunity to compose. That is one thing I have doing for over 60 years on stage, so it has become so easy for me to do. I thank God for it.
When songs come to you, how do you retain them, so you won’t forget them?
Before the technology of phones which has all you need, I used to write my songs down. But when I write them down, I may forget the melody, but thank God for the technology. I use my phone to record any good idea that comes to me.
When you are on stage now do you still dance at 79?
Well, I do my own dancing in a way that I am used to. These days I sit down to sing. But I always enjoy what I do. So, by sitting down, I still reach out to my fans. Music is like a machine that moves people to dance and shaking ones heads, moving left and right, demonstrating the song through your hands & all that is very beautiful.
Many years ago, when you started out, Ebenezer Obey had his own unique way of dancing.
It is this jenlenke type of dance. One, two, thee you will move to the left and you will then dance back to the right. No stress. How did you come up with that dance step?
It is my own style of dancing so that I don’t just stand in one place. I need to do some movement. It’s 1,2,3 front, go backward, go left, go right. It’s good for the body.
How did you get the nickname Commander?
Well, that nickname Commander in those days, was given to me by the fans. It was in those days when we started going to London. I started taking my band to London in the year 1969. Since that time, repeatedly, I have done many international tours. That is why I have been so consistent in what I am doing and I derive joy when I see the joy from the faces of those who attend my programme, or, who I am playing for. You can see them, their cheerfulness, happiness and joy, on their faces, so it is my joy that I am able to make people happy. I am very happy myself. It is like when you point a finger at someone, the rest four is pointing to you. That is it.
Many people know that Ebenezer Obey is one musician who never jokes with rehearsals. Over the last 60 years, you never miss your weekly rehearsals. Why is rehearsal so important to a musician?
Oh, I believe so much in rehearsal because it makes my music better. You have time to review our performances with the band. Even in those days when I was playing throughout the week, I had my club where I played 2 times a week, I go to engagements all weekends, yet I still rehearse. Even the same song that I have been singing, I still rehearse, because I have a style to sing the same song in different ways.
How do you see the kind of music that the young ones sing today? People say their music lacks depth and meaning, unlike the evergreen ones your generation sang like Ketekete, Boardmembers & co?
The new generation is reaching out to their own generation. Their generation understands what they are doing. And they are happy with them. We must commend them. This is their own time. Once, I was a youth. And the youth will always behave like a youth. But as you age in life, experience, and our ways of life, continue to change will become matured time by time. That is why if you have a newborn baby, till the age of 12, they regarded as children, but when they become 13, they believe they have arrived, that is why we call them Teenagers. They are in their teens, from age 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 to 19. They are teenagers. But when they become 20, adulthood sets in. Adulthood starts from there. They become young adults from 20. The attitude, understanding change. When you clock 40, you have reached maturity. That is why they say a full at 40, they say is a fool forever. When you get to age 40, you behave differently. You see things differently. From that age 40 to 50, is another phase of life like I sang in one of my albums. After 50, when you clock 60, it is not all things you want to do. When you clock 70, you thank God and you will tell God, well I am prepared. I want to live more if you wish, if it is possible to spare my life to live to 90, 100, I will appreciate you and I will thank you. But from 70, you must be prepared to be a man. You must begin to think that one day you will go back to your creator, so attitude changes, style changes, way of thinking changes, ways of approaching things changes, more so when you are close to God. God will lead you and teach you what to do. The Holy Spirit will guide you. We thank God for life.
How do you feel at 79?
I am turning 79 soon. 79 is around the corner. We thank God for life. How do I feel?
I feel good. I feel grateful to God. I thank God. I am always looking back and I am always thanking God that God thank you. God has done so much for me.
Is there anything you still want to achieve musically that you haven’t achieved?
Musically? Technology this day is there for one to do so many things. I have started rehearsing with my grandchildren and our rehearsal is yielding fruits. What we are bringing out has surprised me. I can’t believe it. It gives me a lot of joy. To answer your question that is there any other musical achievements I am still striving for that I have not achieved? I believe there are. There are. I look at the Elders in music like Victor Olaiya. He was always going out. He was always blowing his trumpets. He was going that because you can’t have that gifts and want it to die. So Dr. Victor Olaiya continued to play, but at a certain time, age did not allow him to go out again. Before he went to be with the Lord, he was unable to go out. Like he used to go and play. I still go out to play, but with time, we would also get to that stage, by God’s Grace. By His Grace. Because as far as I am concerned, if I am still able to move, I will sing. I am not ready to retire yet. But if it happens to me as it happens to elders like Dr. Victor Olaiya, then we have to give God the glory.
He didn’t want to stop. But with the situation, age stopped him. Once you are old, doing music that you know how best to do makes you happy. And it helps one. So, for me, I will play music until when I can’t play it no longer (Smiles) if my body says No. It is then I will stop. But as long as God is helping me and I can still move, I will sting sing. I have continued to Compose. I compose music every day. There are still so many things that I can do. I still have so many things that I want to do that I have not done. Yes, I still have many.
Are you releasing an album very soon to celebrate your 79th or 80th?
I hope to. But that special releases as people request, I do that. I do that all the time.