The story of Chief Ebenezer Olasupo Obey Fabiyi in the last 68 years could be likened to various Bible authors, ranging from Jonah to Moses and lately to Job. In the last four years, he practically lost all that he laboured for, but today,
God showed multiplication agenda in his life and he’s back, bigger and stronger as revealed by Obey himself to TOPE OLUKOLE in this encounter. Excerpts:
AT 68, what was the journey like from the beginning?
I was born in Lagos in April 3, 1942, to the families of the late Chief Nathaniel Olasewo Fabiyi and Chief Abigail Oyindamola Fabiyi of Kesi Ake and Owu-Egba, Abeokuta, Ogun State. I had my primary education at the Methodist Primary School, Idogo.
Idogo is in Yewa, Ogun State, about nine miles to Ilaro, after which I attended Methodist Secondary Modern School.
My flair for music was discovered while I was an active member of the school’s cultural group, the Idogo Boys and Girls Club. I later became the leader of the school’s church choir and also a member of Ifelodun Mambo Orchestra.
Mambo Orchestration was a kind of music that dominated the scene then. Adeolu Akinsanya was the major factor in Mambo and Agidigbo music then.
As this was going on, we had different genre of music like Apala, Sakara, Waka, being played simultaneously around towns while artistes like Tunde Nightingale, Rex Lawson, Victor Uwaifo, Ayinde Bakare, among others were also playing all over.
Dele Ojo was playing Highlife music in Akure dialect. highlife was ruling and reigning in the music scene with the likes of Victor Olaiya, E.T Mensah. They were not reigning only in Nigeria, but across the African continent.
Where were you then?
I was an all-round instrumentalist then, playing congas and Agidigbo very well and I also composed songs, which I usually took to Adeolu Akinsanya to see.
I always wanted to show my skills, so I entered any band and it gave me the opportunity to form Fatai Rolling Dollars band with him. We formed the band together based on the circumstances that brought the two of us together.
I met him when he played great rhythm on Agidigbo to my amazement. I never thought anybody could do it. I practiced what he played and it took me a whole day to perfect the rhythm.
There and then, I started searching for him, looking for people who can introduce me to him. We met and became good friends. We formed the band and I became the captain of the band, that is, the second in command.
I composed all the music we played in the band and the single we recorded. My name was boldly written in the album, as the composer. I later formed my own band.
When exactly was your break in music?
It all started in 1963 when I released my first debut single album E wa wo ohun oju ri. It was followed in quick succession by Olomi gbo temi, the hit single that became an instant success with massive listenership.
In those days, you measure the level of your success through the numbers of record you sold. Then there were platinum, gold and silver. If you had platinum, it means your album sold about a million copies.
Throughout those periods, I never got any silver. I had three platinum and 20 gold discs. I later created an identity for myself, I started playing what I called Juju Highlife, which took care of the youth and the old generation, that was how I penetrated the universities, technical colleges and other tertiary institutions. Juju Highlife was my own brand of Owambe.
In all these periods, you didn’t mention King Sunny Ade, was he not on scene then?
He was a respected guitarist, he was playing his own kind of owambe, taking after Ayinde Bakare and Dele Ojo, but I knew I was a bit ahead of him, because I formed my band before him.
There was a time when it was the world of the two of you.
Yes, we were both working hard. I was not sleeping, same with him. It was either Obey or KSA then, anybody that wanted to play, played either KSA or Obey.
What’s your view about the dying night clubs and joints for artistes to play?
There were night clubs everywhere in those days with one band or the other on the stand, which created avenue for income generation.
There was no armed robbery then, but so many circumstances have made people to abandon the patronage of night clubs and joints. The security of lives and property is very important.
In those days, we moved all round in the night without any fear. Then, radio stations will come to wherever we were playing to record us for their programmes.
How did you make your money in the industry?
Through the sales of albums, I made more money in recording than stage play.
Was there anything like piracy in those days?
No, because there were consistencies, I released about four albums in a year.
Is it true that you and King Sunny Ade often fought?
No, it was our fans that created this impression in the mind of the people. If I sang a song, fans will misinterpret it and people did come to us to confirm this which were blatant lies.
You praise-sing some of your fans in your album, did they pay for this and why?
It is part of the trade. It publicises their businesses, but there is no sentiment in who we patronise.
What about the money they dole out for this?
It is a way of showing appreciation. Some people ask me to do it for them but I didn’t, while some did not ask and I do it for them. It is not for anything.
What else have you received from your patrons other than cash?
I’m a moderate man. I’ve been given wrist watches, clothes and other material things, excluding cars.
How did you get into word ministry?
When I received the call, I struggled for 11 years before I finally gave up for Christ.
I personally received the revelation and it was later confirmed to me by great men of God like late Benson Idahosa, but what actually broke the camel’s back was when God said to me in a dream that, assuming you sleep and not wake up the next morning, how would you play Miliki music? Will you do that in the grave?
That was when I finally surrendered my life to God. Late Benson Idahosa later advised me to go for observation course. I did that for nine months in the United States of America, though there was a break in it.
I came back to the country at interval of every three months to honour some engagement that had been paid for. Today, three of my sons are pastors; I give all glory to God. We’ve also seen the trait of having more pastors in the family.
Are you now back on stage play?
God has a way of dealing with his people. We are not God and we don’t know His plan for us at every point in time.
Take the case of Elijah in the Bible for instance, if it were this day that Elijah entered the house of that widow of Sarephat, they would say he wanted to fornicate with her. Everything that God did for us at every point in time, He has a purpose for it.
Many said it is because you are broke that you went back to Miliki, how do you want to justify that?
This is what I’ve been saying, people can say anything. I’ve been doing special appearances for my friends in the last seven years.
I was called into the ministry not to make money or enrich myself; I spent all I made in music in the ministry without any regret. You can’t trade with God. I had my challenges four years ago, I lost my factory.
Banks were on our neck because we owed two banks then. I have so many people that can help but I didn’t want them to see me as a beggar.
I read my Bible, I make my Bible my best companion and today, the trial is over through the help of one man, Chief Mike Adenuga. What he did for me is simply beyond my imagination and I will continue to pray for him and his family.
Did you really miss Miliki music?
No, I did not miss it. The special appearances are not to make money. Whatever we realise from special appearances is put in the work of the gospel.
You have recovered fully now?
Yes, God has returned all I lost back to me in multiple folds through one man.
He has put me back on a sound footing. God really used him for me greatly.
Before the need arises the supply is already there.
Perhaps what Chief Mike Adenuga did for you prompted you to produce a special album for him?
He didn’t ask me to do any album for him. He only told me to give him collection of my music. He loves Iba loye kase, so, instead of giving him all my old albums, I did the special release for him based on information I have on him.
We didn’t sell it to the public; it was released specially for him.
What was his reaction?
He was shocked and appreciated it.
Sir, how did God heal your eye problem?
Eye problem! Glaucoma and cataracts, I ought to have taken care of it, but I didn’t. I
f not God, I wouldn’t be able to see you people, though I was never blind, but each time I walked and saw a step on the way, it became double and assistance would be needed to take the step one after the other.
The impression that I was blind is absolutely incorrect.
What is your source of inspiration?
A musician can develop his talent through regular practice. When you do it constantly, you will improve on your performance. Most of my songs are character-moulding and they are directed at the society as a whole.
People like listening to my music before leaving home in the morning. My lyrics are not only didactic, they uplift the human spirit.
When God gives you a talent and sets you up in a generation, the Lord Himself, will give you a special message for that generation; something that will make you an outstanding person.
Your generation will marvel at your gift and appreciate it. So, when we talk about the source of my inspiration, I would readily say it comes from God.