Wednesday, August 01, 2007

70th Great Highlife party Rocks Fatai Rolling Dollar @ 80: images and caption

Octogenarian Rolling Dollar Keeps them rocking...
By Chuks Nwanne
(First published in The Guardin LIFe)

The house was full of the old and the young yet none was old or bold enough to lay hand on the crowned head of the celebrant to mark the ritual that normally accompanies the monthly ritual (tribute) segment of the Great Highlife Party (GHP). Well, none was 80 but the celebrant himself.
The only person who would have been able to perform the ritual was the ElderArtsman himself, the music Impressario Steve Rhodes. He is well over 80 but he was engaged on that day and so was not at the monthly Elders’ Forum, which began six years ago and has continued to draw large crowd every last Sunday of the month.
Last Sunday’s edition, the 70th was deicated to celebrating the 80th birthday (July 22) of the Juju-Highlife maestro, Fatai Olagunju alias Rolling Dollar.

Since inception, Rhodes has been at the head of the elders’ panel that usually conduct prayer of longevity and greater accomplishment on the celebrants; he did it for Wole Soyinka when he was 70 three years ago and was honoured in the same Highlife revival series; he did it to Yemi Ogunbiyi when he was 60 two months ago and was celebrated at the GHP.
Last Sunday, however, he was not on duty, and his deputy in the gathering of the elders, the veteran broadcaster and former President of the Jazz Club of Nigeria, PAa Femi Aekun (75+) was also not on duty.
So everyone could understand when Ambassador Segun Olusola (usually the third of the elders’ panel) -- the good actor that he is -- stylishly refused to be nudged to lay his hands on the latest Octogenarian, Fatai Rolling Dollar. Olusola made it clear that, “we are not competent to hold your (Fatai) hands.” He said the only person qualified to do so would have been the ElderArtsman Rhodes. So the veteran braodcaster and TV producer, and creator of the TV serial, Village Headmaster escaped into songs and mimesis to accomplish the task; and this further deepened the ritualistic content of the event.
In fact, it took extra hands of the veteran journalists Ben Lawrence, Eddie Aderinokun and Ajibade Fashina-Thomas with the anchor of the show, Benson Idonije; and younger (the over 50s and 60s) fellows such as Laolu Akins and Abiola Atanda (Madam Kofo) and others to perform the traditional ritual (praying session) during the Party .

What’s the secret behind the strength of this highlife veteran, whose professional career began since 1953? At 80, the old man is waxing stronger, still striking his guitar in style. His stature and attire too does not say much about his age. Well, maybe, Fatai belongs to the school of thought that believes age is nothing but numbers.

Organised by the management of the Ojez Entertainment in collaboration with the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), last Sunday’s event, as usual, witnessed large turnout of guests. Apart from those that performed the rituals, present at the party also include Dr Yemi Ogunbiyi, Mr Yinka Ogundayisi, Mr S.O Fernandez, ace broadcaster, Patrick Doyle, Chief D. Agbi and Yomi Ogunleye. Others include Tunji Sotimirin, Akin Adeoya, MC Basketmouth, musicians Kefe and Daddy Showkey among others.
As usual, the Highlife Messengers kept the stage busy right from the beginning with highlife tunes, while musicians such as Maliki Showman, Tunde Osofisan, Alaba Pedro and the celebrant himself, who has assumed the top-of-the-bill role on the highlife revival initiative consistently for almost five years. In the presence of his thirtyish wife, Zainab and his younger kids -- Tawakalitu and Jamiyu -- Fatai held the gathering hostage with his energetic performance–– Daddy Showkey and MC Basketmouth supported him on stage at a point.

Eh, don’t be surprised to see Rolling Dollar riding on wheels. You ask why? All right, Joseph Odobeatu (Ojez) donated N250.000 to his car project, calling on others to do the same. Daddy Showkey said good, good things about Fatai; not in cash o. Well, maybe, Showkey will complete the money for the car. He promised to give Dollar “a car before Deecember”. Oh, you think he’s not equal to the task? Okay, you haven’t heard of Showkey’s Transcorp deal?
Okay, okay, the usual CORA spokesman at the GHP, Toyin Akinosho was conspicuously missing at last event. In case you don’t know, Akinosho, secretary general of CORA just won the CNN journalist of the year award (Business and Economy category). In fact, a lot of his friends turned up to drink to his latest fortune, but the man was on AWOL.
It was however, a day Fatai paid tribute to all those who had helped to bring his career from the closet of forgotteness in his old age. He praised Steve Rhodes especially for fishing him out of retirement; and also Benson Idonije and some members of CORA for putting him on the musical menu of generality of Nigerians. And he gave a big hand to former Governor Ahmed Bola Tinubu of Lagos who gave him a befitting apartment in Agege area of Lagos when he suddenly found himself homeless. For now, it is a car he needs.... and that is the latest project. Amen.

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