The iREP Documentary Film Forum, iREP, the Committee for Relevant Art, CORA and the Freedom Park have mourn the passing of Kokoma highlife musician, Fatai Olagunju, a.k.a Rolling Dollar.
In a joint statement issued by the organisations, Rolling Dollar was described as one of the last mainstream practitioners of the music still very active, well to his death; giving the impression of immortality.
Highlife music is a unifying genre, a result of the introduction of the guitar and other wind instruments into traditional African music. It grew rapidly along the coastal towns of West Africa at the height of the demand for independence across the continent, benefiting from the mood and aspiration for liberty.
Fatai was one of the few Kokoma musicians, whose main instrument was the agidigbo (the thumb piano) coupled with the palmwine-type guitar playing style, that embraced the new fusion of traditional beat and Western form; and thus influenced and shaped the direction of highlife music as it is known today.
Rolling Dollar’s symbolic death, on the 20th anniversary of June 12, 1993, is instructive of the unique contribution that the artiste brings to the discourse on national well-being.
A tragic loss to the Nigerian world of music and the collective of the Creative Industry of the continent, Fatai’s passage is a forceful reminder of the need for our countries to re-evaluate the essence of the Culture Producer and give the species its proper due.
Fatai’s legendary artistic life affects not only individuals but also institutions to which he lent his services as a performing musician and as well his humane, generous spirit.
He should be mourned as an expression of our humanity – for his life and career affected our individual beings in divergent ways. But he deserves more to be celebrated by the collective of the Creative Industry for the effect of his artistry on our collective essence as artistes and creatives.
The iREP Documentary Film Forum, iREP, the Committee for Relevant Art, CORA and the Freedom Park – three institutions to which Fatai was affiliated in the last years of his life – have resolved to celebrate the essence of the legend through a night of reflection on his life and career.
This would involve reflections on his life; reviews of his career; screening of perhaps the only documentary film on his life titled Rolling Dollar: A Legend Unplugged, produced and directed by Femi Odugbemi and released in March; and a session of musical tributes by his fellow veteran highlife musicians, and many young ones whose careers he affected, and to some extent helped to shape by his own exemplary service to the music industry.