"CHIEF COMMANDER" Ebenezer Obey is one of Nigeria's two juju rulers, the other being "King" Sunny Ade. Since he introduced electric instruments to the jubilant African dance music, Obey has sold millions of records in his country and his concerts there last up to nine hours. In deference to American attention spans, his Friday show at Lisner will probably be somewhat briefer, but the music is sure to burn as bright.
Obey's brand of juju is simultaneously complex and elemental, and more traditional than Ade's synthed-up Americanized version. The talking drums establish a propulsive rhythm pattern, Obey's guitar lays another jittery rhythm over that, chanted harmonies join in, and so on with the rest of the 17-piece ensemble. The result is a colorful, thickly interwoven texture that somehow sounds airy, and reveals new details each time you hear it.
The label says each side is divided into six tracks, but the songs flow seamlessly together, so who's to know? Obey's stinging guitar threads in and out of the first cut, "Aimasiko Lo Ndamu Eda," a hit in Nigeria. The tunes are lilting but his lyrics apparently have political content -- the liner notes say "Aimasiko" is an allegory about a decadent young woman who jilts her young suitor for a millionaire. But you'll have to take that on faith, and the music is so expressively elating that understanding the words hardly matters. EBENEZER OBEY --
"Aimasiko" (Melanie Records OPS 010). Appearing Friday at Lisner Auditorium.