Sunday, November 04, 2007

Rolling Dollar, Asekun, Onobrakpeya, Oloyede, Ogunbiyi to be honoured at LABAF 07

At LABAF '07, Grand Reception For The Big 5
By Gregory Austin-Nwakunor
(As published in The Guardian on Sunday 4/11/07)

THE ninth Lagos Book and Art Festival begins Friday November 9 and will end 11th at the National Theatre, Lagos. Steve Rhodes, the grand arts persona, has offered his incredibly talent-filled S.R Orchestra to perform at the Grand Arthouse Reception, which is in the fourth year.

The reception is held to mark the collective birthdays of significant artists who have been earlier honoured in the year at the Elders Forum/ GreatHighlife Party, which Rhodes, 81, himself chairs.

This year's honorees include Fatai Rolling Dollar, who turned 80; Chief Femi Asekun, who turned 75; Bruce Onobrakpeya, who turned 75; as well as Dr Yemi Ogunbiyi and Chief Tunde Oloyede, who turned 60. The Steve Rhodes Orchestra is an 18-man band, which delivers a big fat sound. It breaks down the structure of some of the most significant urban social music in Nigeria and renders them in new, profoundly articulate ways.

Bruce Onobrakpeya

THE Urhobo-born printmaker, painter and sculptor, belongs to the first generation of contemporary artists graduating from the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology (NCAST, presently known as Ahmadu Bello University).

Onobrakpeya's training was based on the Western illusionistic tradition of representational ar; however, many of his works do not reflect his training in Western aesthetics. Instead, they portray stylistic elements and compositions that mirror traditional African figural sculpture and decorative arts.

Regarded as Nigeria's best-documented artist, He needs very little introduction in art circles both within and outside the country; Onobrakpeya has devoted his life to his work and has played a significant role in the renaissance that has swept through the country's contemporary art scene.

Over the years, Onobrakpeya's Agbarha-Otor artistic outfit, with in-built chalets, successfully hosted artists to yearly communions, called the Harmattan Workshops.

Listed in International Who is Who in Art and Antique, Onobrakpeya received an honourary D. Litt. from the University of Ibadan in 1989 and on June 6, 2000, he was honoured with the Fellowship of the Society of Nigerian Artists. He had previously, received Pope John Paul II award for painting the life of Saint Paul, the Fellowship of Asele Institute award, the Sadam Hussein award, the Solidra Circle award, and Fulbright Exchange Scholar award.

Femi Asekun

The veteran broadcaster and one of the pioneer staff of NTA 10, is one stickler to perfection.

As a pioneer staff of NTA, he and some others like him, learnt everything about television, including the engineering side because there was no point standing in front of the camera doing whatever you had to do and not knowing the nuances of the job itself. This made him a rounded broadcaster.

His zest for arts and music is commendable, and at the monthly Great Highlife Party, you will see him conducting affairs.

Asekun had, at a young age, performed in Norway, England and France, and has indeed, remained in practice even in his septuagenarian age.

His involvement with the arts started from home. His father was a very good organist and there was a small organ in the house. Because he was a reverend gentleman, most times in the evenings when he wanted to relax, he would just go into the church and play; and usually, he used to take Femi along. That made him feel interested in music. He was the one who first started teaching him music. Then when he became too busy and didn't have time to continue, he arranged for him to be going for piano lessons with Professor Akin Euba's father.

This aroused his interest in the arts. Then, when he got to CMS Grammar School, music was taught as a subject as well and there was a dramatic society, we were taught fine arts at school. So these really made him to be alive to this other side of life. At CMS Grammar School, he was a member of the school's quartet, JEPA Quartet - JEPA - J for Jadesimi; E for Euba, P for Peters, and A for Asekun - that took part in the 1948 festival and won a silver medal for choral singing.

He recollects: "In 1956 or 1957, during the summer months, about three months holiday from the university, most people go out to work and earn extra money to buy one or two things that they might use. Through the Scottish Union of Students that time, I got a job in Norway, at a hotel in a little town called Hama. I played for two months at the hotel's nightclub and that was very good. My group was called Femi's Trio + 1. It was a quartet. Instead of calling it Femi's Quartet, we called it Femi's Trio + 1. One of the guys played piano, a bass player, I, on drums and a tenor and a trombone player."

Yemi Ogunbiyi

He is a literary icon, a great administrator and academic. But the highpoint of his journalistic and administrative career was perhaps his stint as Managing Director of the Daily Times Newspaper.

He gave the Daily Times a new sense of direction and lease of life. He infused new blood into its editorial content and made it readable again to its former customers and admirers. This, he was able to accomplish with the good sense of management, part of which was the ability to motivate people. Unfortunately, there was no continuity, as he did not hold the job for too long.

His Tanus Communications has remained a leader in Public Relations and corporate management services.

Ogunbiyi was part of the literary activist movement of the 70s through the 80s, during which a great body of literature, as well as performances were produced. This streak he took to The Guardian when he joined the newspaper organisation from his teaching up of the University of Ife. He thus coordinated the literary services of The Guardian, which yielded the famous books, Perspectives in Nigerian Literature volumes 1 and II. He also edited what has been referred to as the bible of Theatre studies in Nigeria, Drama and Theatre in Nigeria, which is currently undergoing reproduction due to popular demand.

Tunde Oloyede

He has made positive impact on film production in Nigeria. But perhaps it all began from his television production days at the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) where he proved his worth in the production of some of the major programmes.

He brought creativity and imagination to bear on the production of Village Headmaster, one of the biggest soap operas on Nigerian television, when he took over from Sanya Dosumu, who is now a traditional ruler.

As chairman of the Steering Committee of the Motion Picture Council of Nigeria (MOPICON), he was instrumental in designing a blueprint to regulate professional practice in the country's motion picture sector.

He also had a crack at the chairmanship of the Independent Television Producers Association of Nigeria (ITPAN), a formidable outfit, which Steve Rhodes first groomed as founding president. His wife is Bimbo Oloyede, a veteran broadcaster whose face is a delight to fervent viewers of Channels Television.

Fatai Rolling Dollar

He represents early highlife - from the exploits of Tunde King in the 1930s through to Ambrose Campbell in the 1940s and Julius Araba in the 50s.

Fatai Rolling Dollar was one of the leading musicians of the early generation of highlife exponents, having had considerable apprenticeship from his association with Julius Araba's Afro -skiffle group. When he struck out on his own in the fifties, he immediately became popular.

He had the ability to compose, from the experience acquired from early highlife and juju musicians who considered moral rectitude, industry, social commentary and the philosophy of life more important than praise singing.

Rolling Dollar refused to associate with this trend and collapsed his previously big band into a small group of four because his sidemen had left him in disapproval for greener pastures. They had gone to join the new commercial bands, which were making the money.

Rolling Dollar became impoverished because his music appealed only to a few people. He sang all the songs, played the lead guitar, which took endless solos after it had provided accompaniment, and played the role of the rhythm guitar. He then switched over to the conga drums where he played various rhythmic patterns to hold a dance floor community down for long periods of time. Rolling Dollar carried on with three other musicians where one of them played bass guitar, another played cleave and other percussion instruments and the fourth doubled on percussion and vocals to help harmonise tunes and establish counterpointal dueting with Rolling Dollar on a number of songs.

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