Fatai Rolling Dollar a Guitarist. Singer and Exponent of the Native Thumb Piano (Agidigbo) is the 78 year old Veteran of West African Folk Music and the greatest living influence on West African Contemporary music, who in is his 64 year career has directly spawned and mentored some of the most successful musicians in West Africa's history such as Ebenezer Obey and who directly influenced others like King Sunny Ade, Fela Kuti and many more. His musical style is a fusion of Native agidigbo with broader Highlife and Latin themes. The Latin Influence being as a result of his birth/background in Lagos, with a large Immigrant Brazilian and Hispanic population in the mid 19th century -early 20th century. More lately he has experimented with Afro-Funk and Afro-beat.
Fatai Rolling Dollar
The only things that betray Fatai Rolling Dollars age are the front teeth hes lost in the course of his 78 years, and the memories of decades of neo-traditional Nigerian music he has traversed since he began playing in the Fifties. For the rest, this livewire player of the West African agidigbo thumb piano and the guitar remains a vivid testimony of the vitality of Lagoss music heritage. In 2003-4 he returned to Nigerias music scene with three landmark albums and was finally recognised as a virtuoso exponent of neo-traditional highlife rhythms and a precursor to juju music. I am like a tiger and all my body is ready for action, he recently told a Nigerian reporter
Despite his early output, Fatai had by and large been forgotten by his countrys music community and international specialists (no mention of him in the venerable Rough Guide to World Music). Yet household names like Ebenezer Obey, Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade, grudgingly admit to his influence on their music.
Rolling Dollar, whose real surname is Olagunjo, can thank his schoolmates for his stage name. He was always called on by them to roll a two-and-a-half shilling piece (a dollar) to choose sides for the football matches at school break. He began his musical career during the years of hard graft put in for the marines of the colonial powers in his native port city. Fatai worked the Palm Line that went down to Congo, Libreville, Luanda, and Port Noire. Everywhere he went he picked up different rhythms on the agidigbo and played it in exchange for Lucky Strike cigarettes.
His music break came in 1953 when teamed up with master guitarist J.O. Araba and tenor sax Ishola Willie Payne to play at the exclusive Island Club. Their Afro Skittle band adopted Ghanaian palm wine music to Yoruba highlife sounds, a fusion that deeply influenced up-and-coming artists Fela Kuti, Sunny Ade and Ebenezer Obey (whom he taught to play the guitar). In the early days of independence, the Afro Skittles recorded several 78-rpm vinyl songs for Philips, the most popular of which were Ranka Dede and Ogba oya ya .
The start of Fatais demise dates back to the night of February 18 1977, when the military, under the orders of Olusegun Obasanjo, burnt down Felas self-proclaimed Kalakuta Republic. At the time, Fatai lived two doors away and he lost his home and all his musical possessions. It put a brutal stop to the career of this impish composer who took refuge in a one-room shack in the notorious Mushin neighbourhood of Lagos.
For the following 25 years, Fatai has stayed there, eking out a living first as a security man in a sports complex and then as a guitarist for the local church. It was only after Punch journalist Funso Aina complained in his column about the bundle of talent that is wasting away in Mushin, that the career of this father-of-ten was resurrected. First the Goethe Institute, then the French Cultural Centre invested in bringing him out of retirement. The latter, under the guidance of director Joel Bertrand, took him in May 2003, to Rabat, Morocco, to open the second edition of the capitals world music festival. The result is a splendid live album brought out by the Lagosian label Jazzhole Records.
Already in 2003, Jazzhole executive director Olakunle Tejuoso had released a record to mark the singers comeback. Simply called Fatai Rolling Dollar returns , its socially-drenched lyrics and old world charm take us back to the Sixties palmwine style. This contemporary of Julius Araba, Ayinde Bakare, Eddy Fasaiye and Seni Tejuosho has now followed up with the May 2004 release Won Kere Si Number and, all of a sudden, everyone wants a piece of the diehard musician. A black beret almost always screwed on his diminutive head, a smile as broad as his musical experience, Fatai Rolling Dollar believes he has plenty more to give to West African music, and patiently waits for his rightful place in African music history
Photograph Copyright- Uche Iroha (For Glendora Review).
Several performance's in Lagos Nigeria and a tour of Europe is planned for the first quarter of this year.
Latin Big bands, Justus Domingo, Denge Omo-Ijebu
Acoustic/Electric Guitar, Agidigbo, Sakara, Omele, Gangan, Shekere.