Veteran juju turned gospel musician, Evangelist Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi, has come a long, long way. Having spent well over 50 years in music and distinguished himself, the man popularly known as ‘Chief Commander’ has risen to become a Professor Emeritus and Visiting Artiste at the Department of Performing Arts, Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State. In this interview with TS Weekend, Obey speaks on diverse issues, sharing his experience about life and music. Enjoy
Having spent over 50 years in the Nigerian music industry and distinguished yourself, what can you say about the industry looking at lots of things happening today?
Having been in the music business for quite a long time, if you are to compare both the gospel and secular music, what can you say about the two?
Looking at your early days and considering the quality of music then and now, would you say things are better or worse now?
And after finishing recording, they will now fix a listening day for all the marketers to come into the studio and listen to the recordings of the artistes. They will announce the name of the artiste and say ‘this number we are going to play is by Ebenezer Obey, he is a new artiste, listen to the first side, listen to the second side’. They will play it and then say ‘order’. Those who have listened will begin to book their orders. This one will say ‘I book 20’, that one will say ‘I book 50’. Then they will calculate the order, if we get up to 500 units, that’s when the artiste will go to the factory, to the press. And that is how the record will be put out for sale. That was a lot of work and a lot of time in those days. That was what I passed through. Today, the technology allows you to record in a demo and take it to them to listen to. But then things were much better, it allows for hard work. If you are not a hard working artist, you cannot get anywhere. That also calls for seriousness; you want to do music, you want to record, you have to be serious. It is when you start singing that you gain acceptability or acceptance by the public; then you become a star and the public loves your music, they will be waiting for when the next album will be out. So, we had a good time. I, in particular, had a good time because I became a star. I was well accepted, though it didn’t come easy.
You have a lot of evergreen records…?
Look at the musical content, the message being disseminated to the public now, what actually went wrong? Why can’t we have philosophical songs that one can learn from as it used to be during your time?
Nowadays, everything is fast. I mean people are living fast life. If you want to get money quickly, you can get it. Everything is fast, fast. They cannot sit down to construct like we were doing. Anyway, the youths are communicating to their own generation and their generation understands what they are saying. So, we cannot condemn what they are doing because what they are doing is widely embraced and accepted by their own generation.
What was your source of inspiration at that time? From where did you get your inspiration because anyone that listens to your music would know that it’s philosophical?
What will be your advice to the young ones?
I am talking to the younger ones. They need to be cool-headed. Thank God for the younger ones who are cool-headed, they are enjoying the fruits of their labours. Let them be closer to God, all these will help them to attain greatness in life.
Today’s musicians are crying about piracy, did you witness such a thing during your time?
So, from the word go to the end, I stayed with DECA. When they became a Nigerian company, I was there; I was sincere with them till I became a director. And at the end of the day I bought the company. Anything they wanted to do, they would ask for my opinion and I told them my candid opinion, just as an artiste. But they found out that things that I told them were true. I didn’t tell them lies. I told them the truth. Whenever they compared what I told them with what others told them, they saw that in everything my ways were different. But when piracy came, that was when I began to have problems. Piracy affected every good work; they pirated all good works so I had my share in that. The war on pirates is there. We have fought our own part, but I know that by the grace of God copyright owners will win one day. There is no way a thief will continue to get away with his loot; one day, the thief will be caught. That is it.
If you are to quantify what you have lost to piracy what will it be?
What are some of the mistakes you made at a particular time that you won’t want any of the young ones to ever make?
So, the real thing is that yes, I want to live longer. If He says I will live up to 90 I’ll thank Him. If He says I will live up to 100 years, I will thank Him. He owns my life; I have committed it to Him. He has been so nice to have even seen me to this age. I don’t have any worries. I am still working for Him and I will continue until when it pleases Him to say ‘come home’.
Your son also sings. He sings just like you…?
How do you feel when you hear him sing?
How many of them are into music?