FATAI ROLLING DOLLARS ON FIRE-festour - 13/06/2013

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FATAI ROLLING DOLLARS ON FIRE-festour

FATAI ROLLING DOLLARS ON FIRE-festour

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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. In this line-up was a young budding star, Ebenezer Obey, who played Maracas in the band. They had some hits with Phillips, then decamped to Jofabro/EMI where they recorded over one hundred and fifty singles and had many hits for the company including "Sisi Jaiye Jaiye" and "Won Bumi".


Fatai Rolling Dollar
- Photo credit QUEEN OYEDELE
Eventually Ebenezer left with six members of the band to form his own group with its own fresh style, adding more instruments including talking drums and slide guitar. Fatai thereafter reformed and renamed the band Fatai Rolling Dollar and his New Millennium Band.

In the late sixties, a sweeping change was going through the Nigerian music scene. A new corps of Nigerian musicians appeared on the scene, in particular Ebenezer Obey and King Sunny Ade, who had both benefited from Fatai's musical inspiration. They took the country by storm as the fortune of musicians like Fatai Rolling Dollar dwindled.

In order to keep afloat in the music business, Fatai decided to start a musical equipment rental service. Obey, on his return from touring abroad, actually helped Fatai by giving him some musical equipment to add to his own stock. Fatai's house was a few doors down from the Kalakuta Republic (a compound) at Moshalashi, owned by the young, up and coming Nigerian superstar, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.

Fela's Kalakuta Republic was situated in the Moshalashi suburb and his celebrated nightclub, The Shrine, also situated in this area at the Empire Hotel. The infamous invasion of the surrounding area of Kalakuta Republic and the consequent inferno that ravaged the lot had devastating consequences for Fatai whose means of livelihood was largely destroyed. Whatever could be savaged of the equipment also ended up in the hands of looters who took advantage of the situation.

With his livelihood in ruins, Fatai moved a few miles away to Mushin, with his wife and five children.

The seven family members lived in a single room, derogatorily referred as "face-me-I-face-you". At this low point of his life, Fatai lost all five children to illness within three months and his wife worked herself to the bone, finally succumbing to exhaustion and death. For twenty years, he remained in abject poverty and depression, eventually finding a job as security man at the stadium.


Fatai Rolling Dollar
- Photo credit QUEEN OYEDELE
The astonishing story of his 'rediscovery' as told several times over is still fresh with us. And that he has since gone from strength to strength is no doubt a fact for all to see. An amazing singer and performer whose growing band of devotees is fast cutting across diverse strata both at home and abroad, Fatai Rolling Dollar, though a vintage musician is also a new phenomenon on the block.

For today's avowed trado-modern Nigerian music resurgent, the line may have somehow blurred between Highlife, Kokoma, Mambo and Agidigbo proper. This however has not in any way diminished the fervour and passionate liking for this kind of music and its forerunners in the Nigerian social circuitry, of which the iconic Rolling Dollar is now symbolic.

This 13-track compilation CD is drawn from the many recordings of Fatai throughout his musical career. The music comprises of palm wine Highlife e.g. "Orona" which is spiced with Creole-flavoured lyrics and calm, Latin American melody. "Eroya" the scintillating native blues is a tribute to legendary Nigerian band leader, vocalist and songwriter, Ambrose Campbell (1919 - 2006). There is also a whiff of 'Eko Akete' in the re-worked folksongs of Lagos e.g. "Baba wa". WIN, an acronym for

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