Showing posts with label Ebenezer Obey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ebenezer Obey. Show all posts

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Adventures in Angularity




I hate to say this, but it's been ages since Ebenezer Obey has waxed anything worth listening to. For the last twenty years he's been devoting himself to spreading the Gospel, only occasionally setting foot in a studio to record something of a religious nature. Not that I'm putting that sort of thing down, of course. It's just that I miss the days when the Chief Commander was on the cutting edge of jùjú music, notably with a series of LPs in the early '80s that combined deep Yoruba roots music and funky R&B influences.

I'm going to post the 1980 LP Current Affairs here (Decca DWAPS 488, released in the UK as Oti OTI 488), not because it's my favorite of these recordings (that honor goes to Eyi Yato, also released in 1980, which I'll probably make available in the future) but because more than any other record it displays the brilliant blend of Yoruba harmonies, off-beat blue notes and discordant, "angular" sounds that defines the '80s Obey style. As an illustration of what I mean, check out the passage in "Oba Sijuade" that begins at the 6:35 mark:

Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & his Inter-Reformers Band - Oba Sijuade

"Oba Sijuade" comemmorates the coronation in 1980 of Alayeluwa Oba Okunade Sijuwade as the Ooni of Ifè, one of the foremost traditional leaders of the Yoruba people. Legend has it that at the site of the present-day city of Ile-Ifè the supreme being Olódùmarè directed the creation of the world. The god Obàtálá created human beings out of clay, while the god Oduduwa became the first leader of the Yoruba nation. It is said that all of the succeeding Oonis are direct descendents of Oduduwa. In his 1969 release On the Town (Decca WAPS 28), Obey also paid tribute to then-prince Sijuade.

The great Ibadan Flood Disaster of 1980, in which the Ogunpa River overflowed, killing at least 100 people and laying a good part of the city waste, is commemorated on side 2 of Current Affairs. It is ironic that on August 26 of this year, five days short of the 31st anniversary of that calamity, and despite many years of attempts to channelize the Ogunpa, the river overwhelmed its banks again, exacting a similar toll in lives and property:


Download Current Affairs as a zipped file here. In the course of researching this post, I was saddened to read of the death on August 23 of Juliana Olaide Obey-Fabiyi, Ebenezer Obey's wife of 48 years. I'm sure everyone reading this will join me in offering Mr. Obey their deepest condolences.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ebenezer Obey On The Town!




As I promised, here is the second installment of ground-breaking classic jùjú by the great Ebenezer Obey, his LP On The Town (Decca WAPS 30, reissued as Obey WAPS), recorded in London in 1970. Here we find the Chief Commander and his International Brothers stretching out with a non-stop medley on Side 1. Side 2 features two extended cuts. I especially enjoyed the highlife "Ajoyio/Ore Mi Maje Aja." For more information on the songs click on the picture below.

Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Lagos State/Ekiti/Ife/A Omo Enia Luware O/Davies/Adebayo

Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Adupe Baba/Akunle/Tonny Anny

Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ajoyio/Ore Mi Maje Aja



Saturday, June 21, 2008

Why I'm an "Ebenezer Man"




Those of a certain age, like me, will remember when the Beatles first hit the international scene in late 1963. Within a few months
Beatlemania swept around the world like a tsunami.

We Beatlemaniacs (the male ones, anyway) soon divided ourselves into two factions: "Paul Men" and "John Men." Of course, all the girls were crazy about Paul McCartney, the "Cute Beatle," and "Paul Men" loved his bitchen' bass guitar that looked like a violin. "The Smart Beatle," John Lennon, didn't get as much attention at first. But while McCartney always had a way with the catchy melody, it was Lennon who contributed the most meaningful and insightful lyrics to the Beatles canon. He had a nuanced and cynical view of human nature that struck a chord with the youthful and rebellious. That's why, even though Lennon and McCartney complimented each other perfectly, and none of the work they did on their own ever equaled what they did together, I've always been a "John Man."

I suspect that jùjú music fans similarly divide themselves into factions following King Sunny Adé and Ebenezer Obey (just for sake of argument, we will leave out of the equation I.K. Dairo, Prince Adekunle and the like, much less the silly Shina Peters!).

King Sunny Adé was the one who brought
jùjú music out of Nigeria in 1982, when his LP Juju Music was released on Island Records, but of course he didn't create the style. Nor did Ebenezer Obey, but he'd been playing jùjú since the mid-1950s, and founded his International Brothers Band (later re-named the Inter-Reformers) in 1964. Following Sunny's initial success, there was a desultory attempt to market Obey to an international audience, and a bizarre record, Je Ka Jo (Virgin 205761) was released in 1983. A big glob of over-produced mush, Je Ka Jo had nothing to do with jùjú music as it was generally understood, and disappeared without a trace.

If Virgin Records had licensed some of Obey's great Nigerian releases like Current Affairs (Decca WAPS 488), Sound of the Moment (Decca WAPS 498) or Eyi Yato (Decca WAPS 508), they might have gotten somewhere. Those records, all released in 1980, with their soul-stirring Yoruba harmonies, mind-bending guitar work and echoes of American rhythm and blues, display the great Obey at the peak of his powers. In comparison Sunny Adé, as good as he is, is just outclassed.

That's why I'm an "Ebenezer man."

Nigerian fans have their own favorite recordings. Board Members (Decca WAPS 38, 1972) is probably the most popular of Obey's early releases, while many swear by The Horse, The Man and His Son (Decca WAPS 98, 1973). I myself have always been partial to two albums he recorded in London in 1969 and 1970, In London (Decca WAPS 28, later reissued as Obey WAPS 28), and On the Town (Decca WAPS 30, reisued as Obey 30).
In the coming years Obey would adopt some of the innovations of the other jùjú musicians - pedal steel guitar and long, extended jams - but these albums are interesting for their blend of jùjú and highlife elements.

Here's In London. Click on the picture below to read about the songs. When I digitize it, I will post On the Town here as well.

Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Egba


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ijesha


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ibadan


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Iba Foluwa/Ajo Kodabi Ile


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ijebu


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ondo/Ogbomosho


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ori Mi Ko Ni Buru


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Ore Se Rere


Ebenezer Obey & his International Brothers - Omoba Sijuade/Moti Wa E



Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Merry Christmas!


As you would expect this time of year, things have been super hectic around here, and I just haven't had time to post. There's not a lot of African Christmas music out there, but I did manage to dig up a couple of tunes for your holiday enjoyment. Our first selection is by Kenya's Kilimambogo Brothers Band, "Shangilia Christmas Pts. 1 & 2," (Les Klimambogo LES 22). The second is side 1 of Ebenezer Obey's (left) 1972 LP Odun Keresimesi (Decca WAPS 62), also known as A Christmas Special From the King of Juju.

I'll try to get in another post in the next couple of days (I've got a couple in the hopper; I'm just working on the finishing touches), but if I don't: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, a festive Kwaanzaa, whatever!

Les Kilimambogo Brothers - Shangilia Christmas Pts. 1 & 2


Chief Commander Ebenezer Obey & His International Brothers Band - Odun Keresimesi / Irinse Lo Jona Obey O Jona / Irin Ajo / Ile Oba To Jo


Update: I just found out that Eid Al-Adha begins Thursday, December 20 this year. My very best wishes to all of our Muslim friends, and I apologize for overlooking this earlier.