Domiciled in the newly commissioned Art Gallery of the Federal College of Education, Osiele Abeokuta, a museum booth curated by Oludamola Adebowale is dedicated to the musical works and lifetime achievement of the legendary juju musician, Evangelist (Prof) Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi (MFR). Yinka Olatunbosun reports.
The walk of nolstagia through the small but tastefully decorated museum booth was like travelling through time and history with one of Nigeria’s leading yet conservative musicians of our time, ‘Chief Commander’ now known as Evangelist Ebenezer Obey Fabiyi. The septuagenarian musician began his music career in the mid-50s, grooming his turf with Fatai Rolling Dollar’s band, known for Agidigbo and other popular folk music of the period. In 1964, he formed The International Brother’s band. Like Fela, Cardinal Rex Lawson, Victor Olaiya, Victor Uwaifo and Bobby Benson, Obey experimented with highlife; and added juju to it with his percussion style, guitars and talking drums. He carved a niche for himself as one who was able to make sagacious music become party anthems. For instance, his classic wedding song, “What God has joined together (Eto Igbeyawo)’’, released in 1981 on Decca West Africa music label, has been an all-time favourite at Yoruba weddings.
Several original vinyl records were donated by the musician upon his knowledge of this art project initiated by this institution to honour distinguished citizens of Ogun State who have made remarkable feat in their careers. Obey was the first to respond to this invitation. Not only did he donate some of his priceless personal items to the museum, he donated a good sum of money to give the booth a befitting look. The well-polished wooden flats that demarcated his booth from those of others also paraded pictures of his family, band members, international tours as well as the unforgettable days of Kakadu, a famous Lagos nightclub in Alagomeji, Yaba.
Christened “Ebenezer Obey Avenue”, the museum booth which chronicles the metamorphosis of Obey in music has a transparent and compartmentalized housing for the two electronic guitars. The heavily sequined-lace and crocodile leather skin shoes clearly embody the exotic style of the juju musician. The curator, Oludamola Adebowale used the pattern of street sign posts to articulate the titles of Obey’s evergreen albums such as “Aimasiko’’, “Mukulumuke’’, “Vanity’’, “Precious Gift”, “Board Members’’, “Arambada”, “Aye Wa A Toro”, “Celebration”, “Eko Ila”, “Ketekete”, “Patience (Iya Toyin)’’, “Alowomajaye” and “Mr. Wise”. Like real sign posts, those records are pointers to music history in Nigeria and how it still influences pop culture till date.
In his welcome remarks, Chief Ebenezer Obey expressed his gratitude for being honoured by the first tertiary institution in Ogun State.
“I know this museum space will be of immense benefit and a source of inspiration to the students of the school and future generations who will find motivation in my story and journey through life as a musician, African and an indigene of Ogun state,’’ he stated.
Earlier this year, the curator had presented an exhibition of Obey’s music artifacts during the African Drum Festival organized by the Ogun State government. That project solidified the relationship between Obey and the curator. With help from Mr Oladele Bank-Olemoh, Adebowale was able to retrieve some archival pictures for the museum booth.
“This is a presentation to showcase the unique life of Evangelist Ebenezer Oluwaremilekun Olasupo Aremu Obey-Fabiyi. It is aimed at immortalizing him. All the items in this space were personally handpicked by myself and Chief Obey,’’ Adebowale, who is also the Creative Director, ASIRI Magazine, declared in his curatorial statement.
Accompanied by his manager, Tunji Odunbaku, Obey was warmly received at the gallery by fans and members of the institution who sang some of his greatest hits along with him. The museum booth project was part of the 24th Convocation ceremonies and 42nd Foundation Anniversary of the institution.