African Music Encyclopedia


Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey


photo of Obey

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey was born in Idogo, the Western region of Nigeria in 1942. His musical talent was recognized early on when he was asked to lead the band at his Methodist Primary School. Afer moving to Lagos in the mid-1950s he played in various other bands before starting his own, the International Brothers, in 1964. Soon they had a hit juju single "Ewa Wowun Ojumi Ri." Though juju had been around for a while it was still highly influenced by Ghanaian highlife. Obey modernized the sound by adding the funkiness of Yoruban drumming, more Western-style guitars and drum-kits, and added multiple talking drums, where only one had been used before. That was the beginning of modern juju. As he says:

"It's like cooking a soup. If you put in many different ingredients, it tastes richer and better"

In 1966, Obey's chief juju rival, King Sunny Ade came on the scene, and they still maintain a friendly rivalry today.

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