Monday 8 May 2023

Seriki Oni Guitar - The Sad but Inspiring Story of Fatai Rolling Dolla

Fatai Rolling Dollars was a nickname that was coined around 1937, when Fatai would always roll a silver dollar piece at the coin toss in soccer matches in his school in Lagos, Nigeria. He later became one of the deep Yoruba ‘master musicians’ who introduced the guitar and other wind instruments into traditional Nigerian music.

Late Fatai Olagunju, popularly known as Fatai Rolling Dollar, was born on July 22, 1927 to the family of Chief Olagunju, in Ede, Osun State, Nigeria. Olayiwola Fatai Olagunju, was a jùjú singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, described by the BBC as a "nationally celebrated performer. He was known greatly for his highlife performance with his proficiency in playing guiter and writing songs. Late Rolling Dollar kick started his music career as a musician in the year 1953. He trained many successful musicians, including Commander Ebenezer Obey and Late Orlando Owoh. Ebenezer Obey joined his band in 1958 and left with some band members in the year 1963, to establish their music band.

Rolling Dollar's last major hit was "Won Kere Si Number Wa".

In 1957, he formed an eight-piece band called Fatai Rolling Dollar and his African Rhythm Band, and they recorded numerous seven-inch singles for Phillips West Africa Records.

Towards the end if the 1960's, his star started nosediving and things started falling apart for late Rolling Dollar, as a result of the new wave of juju artists springing up. Being forced out of music 'business', he set up a business outfit, hiring out musical instruments, with his office and store close to Fela's Kalakuta Republic, around Moshalashi area in Lagos metropolis. He lost all his means of livelihood in 1977, when the military junta invaded and burnt down the Kalakuta Republic. His store was affected due to the proximity of the store to the Republic.

In 1977, the tumult of life began when Fatai Rolling Dollars’ residence which was in close proximity to Kalakuta Republic of Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, engulfed in a widespread inferno as a result of the military invasion of the self-proclaimed republic. Unfortunately, Fatai Rolling Dollars lost his nascent family alongside all his musical instrument to the inferno that gulfed the entire area. This incident negatively impacted on his blossoming career.

However, the survival instinct in Fatai Rolling Dollars made him to work as a security officer for about six years where he played his instrument to keep himself engaged. As if this was not enough, other tragic incidents came calling, he was attacked by armed robbers; he was hospitalised and when he recovered, he became a church chorister so that he could earn some stipend.

It was quite intriguing to hear that the erstwhile boss of great musicians like Evangelist Ebenezer Obey, late Dr. Orlando Owoh, Bob Aladeniyi amongst others retained his true love for his craft and he was committed to his passion despite all these gloomy challenges that beclouded his life. All of these experiences reflected in his music and his optimistic view of life.

Late Rolling Dollar never gave up despite the fact that, he was almost completely in obscurity. He experienced untold hardship in life. Poverty was written all over his life. he lost five of his children and their mother due to poverty-induced ailments. For years, he lived in a one-room apartment in Mushin area of Lagos.

Precisely in 2002, luck smiled at him, having wallowed in the 'wilderness' for close to three decades. God miraculously visited him and a great turnaround happened in his life. He was rediscovered by some music promoters. He released his famous hit song ' won kere si number wa' ( they are not our equal). His star started shinning again. He signed various contracts with various music promoters. In 2007, he started going on world tour to the USA, UK, France, Germany and many other western countries. It is also on record that, in his lifetime, the Lagos State Government under the leadership of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, gave him a house in New Oko Oba Low Cost Housing Estate.

Fatai Rolling Dollar died in June 12, 2013, fulfilling his dream of becoming one of the most popular highlife musicians in Nigeria.

He died peacefully in his sleep. He was buried in Ikorodu, Lagos. He was the oldest surviving music artist in Nigeria


Wikipedia, Yorubaness, Opera News, Yemi Adebisi - Independent news.

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