Sunday, December 25, 2011

I’m still very hot in bed - Fatai Rolling Dollar @ 85

‘Faaji Agba exponent and Won Keresi Number hit maker, Fatai Olagunju popular known as Rolling Dollar is now the happiest man in the world. His musical exploits have eventually paid off, perhaps, with a page in the 2012 Guinness Book of World Records.

As you are reading this, the untiring octogenarian artiste has been nominated for the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest performing musician on the planet. And for this lifetime achievement, Rolling Dollar has called the bluff of death, boasting, “now that I have been given world recognition, woe unto death. Death can do its worst because if I die today, I will rest in peace”. In this exclusive interview, the musician recounts his journey to global fame. Excerpts:

My nickname, Rolling Dollar

My classmates gave me the nickname, Rolling Dollar. I used to toss the coin for my mates during competition, especially during football games. Around the mid 30s, there was nothing like currency notes, what we knew then was the coins - shilling and penny. I would roll the coin perfectly that it would last for about two minutes. I was called upon to settle competition and I determined the winner without any rancour...

My rascality

My father, Yusuf Olagunju was from Ede, Osun State and mum was from Inalende in Ibadan, Oyo State and both were core disciplinarians. Both parents, especially my mum, did not want me near music at all. She detested three major occupations: driving, tailoring and music. But ironically, my dad was a typical driver. He was the first person to drive from Nigeria to Gold Coast now Ghana in 1929. But I took his occupation for granted; he didn’t have time to properly monitor me. One day, he was surprised seeing me at the peak of my rascality.

From highlife to juju

During the olden days, there was nothing like juju, fuji, hip-hop or reggae, what existed then were woro, were, dada-kuada, bolojo, apala, dundu, awurebe and asiko. It was in my time that I added flavour to the woro and Asiko and together played with Ayinde Bakare, Ambrose Campbel and Adeolu Akinsanya. As the innovation paid off, I had to also carry along some other talents like Tunde King, Tejuosho, Alaba Pedro and Eji Oyewole. Highlife was being played as palm music before I added a high tempo style to make it what it is today. Between 1958 and 1959, I made the rhythm better, in the proper highlife tone which I had conceived and it eventually resulted in juju brand. I was quick to test-run the idea with my Faaji Agba Band in 1961.

Better than others

I played all sorts of instruments, but I had mastered the traditional log box called Agidigbo. In Germany, it was called bass thumb piano. Agidigbo had been in existence since the time of the colonial masters. We were only two outstanding Agidigbo instrumentalists in Nigeria then; the late Adeolu Akinsanya and I. But I played better than Akinsanya in the sense that normally it is supposed to be played with two or three fingers, but in my case, I used the whole five fingers to play on the strings at once. That gave me leverage. The Agidigbo sounds like guitar. It has tenor, bass, treble, and auto. It talks like a human being when it is played but talks proverbially. The unbelievable thing is that nobody trained me; I learned to play it by myself.

On Ebenezer Obey

The musicians I trained were my best disciples. Ebenezer Obey spent seven and a half years in my custody. The first time he came to me, he preached sermons. And every other time he spent with me, he exhorted me, cautioning me on my carefree attitude. He cannot walk without his big Bible. I was spurred by this and one day I started calling him ‘pastor’. I predicted that he would one day become a clergy man. That was why I was angered when news broke that he smuggled heroine. I swore against the rumour with my life. Obey was a righteous person who could not even condone a person smoking beside him.

My suffering, my travails

I lost so many valuables including children. I became a first class pauper. I lost my only car and instruments together with some other valuables during the Obasanjo regime precisely on February 18, 1977 when the unknown soldiers invaded the Kalakuta Republic of Fela, a stone throw to where I lived in Mushin. To make ends meet, I did security job for six years. After that, I played guitar in churches and collected two or three pennies. I did that for another six years in order to find my feet. I could have died long time ago but the God I served did not allow it.

From juju to gospel

If you are a professional driver, you must be able to turn the steering wheel anywhere it would make senses. I veered into hip-hop lately in order to split my stuff. That act and idea revealed itself last year when Edris Abdulkareem sought me for a collabo. He begged me for three months to do a collabo with him and I gave in. And the album came out fantastically. I have released about 14 albums with few remixes and singles. My current album is gospel, which I entitled, Won Keresi Jesu. It has 12 tracks.

On my world record

I had for long been working on a target, to break the record as the longest reigning and oldest performing musician in history. This had brought me to America than any other country. The American president, Barrack Obama saw me performing in New York and was flabbergasted. A certain old American singer was made to contest with me but it ended in futility. In the competition, he failed disappointingly. The man could not stand up let alone dance to his lyrics. Each time his sponsors attempted to make him stand on his feet, he snapped. But I was there singing and at the same time joggling and bubbling like a young boy. I was immediately invited to the White House, and to God be the glory, I performed to the consternation of President Obama himself.

Secrets of my looking young

Immediately I turned 70, I cut down on certain habits. I stopped drinking, smoking and eating of meat.

On my family

I have three wives who gave me up to 15 children. The latest among them is a German named, Angel. She gave me a bouncing baby boy in 2009. But I have stopped procreation because of the economy. Now I need more money not babies. Nonetheless, I’m still very hot in bed.

Movie roles

I did a movie, Elelubo. The recurrent cocaine peddling in the entertainment industry prompted me to take up the movie task. I did another one entitled, Hun-un (Sigh). The movie gives credence to the old lifestyles of people. It talks expressly about the primitive time when things were done with utmost honesty.

My regrets

My first regret was the ‘unknown soldiers’ that destroyed and carted away my valuables. The second one was the day Ebenezer Obey, who I used to call my son, played pranks on me. I told him I got a new baby. He said, oga mi e tun si n bi mo ni? (Master, are you still having babies at this old age?). He then took the back door out and kept me waiting in his parlor. Third one was when I did collabo with Edris Abdukareem, as soon as the money came in he disappeared into the thin air. I have not set my eyes on him till today. Last one was the advert I did for a dry gin, I was paid only N3 million, I should have bargained for a better deal.

If I die today

If I die today, it would not only bring honour to Nigerians but also to the whole federation, especially to President Jonathan. My goal now is to set up a school for youths who aspire to become not only trained musicians but musicologists. My living to this age is a privilege. I am a world-class musicologist. I just bought a land in Ikorodu where I wish to establish the music school. I have never been rewarded with any national honour. Only former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu appreciated me by buying me a house where I live now.

Culled from : Saturday Sun newspaper

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