16 June 2013

Nigeria: Pa Fatai Rolling Dollar - a Music Icon

Photo: Vanguard
Fatai Rolling Dollar

The life and times of Pa Olayiwola Olagunju alias Fatai Rolling Dollar could be likened to watching a movie where the actor having passed through thick and thin later becomes the hero. SAMUEL ABULUDE writes on the music legend, his pains and the weeks leading to his death.

He Is Indeed A Rolling Dollar - KSA

The death of Nigeria's oldest musician, Pa Fatai Rolling Dollar on June 12, 2013 has been heralded as a celebration of a man who blossomed late in his career. The bearded and energetic musician has proved that it is not over until it is over. Many within the music industry and without, have been inspired at his mien and hope to overcome adversity. His Music

He is indeed an icon and has faced many odds. Fatai Rolling Dollar, born in July 22, 1926, has been a musician at different times and at times done odd jobs to keep body and soul together before fortune smiled on him in the late 90s. The Agidigbo singer has transversed the times and his experience of the music terrain in Nigeria will be missed. The master guitarist has played highlife, juju and mixed with the new generation of singers. With hits like Eko Akete, Won Kere Si Nomba, Easy Motion Tourist, Sisi Jaiye Jaiye, Beleke. Rolling Dollar endeared himself to both the old and new generations. He lived much longer than his contemporaries and he attributed his longevity to God's grace and his love for herbs which his parents brought him up with. Born to the family of Late Chief Olagunju from Ede, Osun State, the music legend was able to resuscitate his career and receive the goodwill of people, notably Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu, when he was Lagos State governor. Last musical Tour and medical condition

Pa Rolling Dollar's last tour was in the United States and he was to perform in different cities. According to Samson Raji, his promoter to that tour, Pa Rolling dollar fell ill in Maryland and could not complete the tour. Mr Raji said that it was at Laurel Regional Hospital founded in 1978 that it was diagnosed that Baba had lung cancer and pneumonia. According to the promoter, he had started receiving treatment which made him to spend more than a month in the US but Baba was eager to come to Nigeria and use herbs which he had been used to all his life.

"He was on a tour in different cities in the US. Baba was sick in April and because of that, he could not complete the tour. We performed in New-York and Maryland. We were supposed to go to California, Atlanta and North Carolina but due to his sickness we couldn't. I finally found out that baba was sick before he left, just that maybe, he overlooked it as not serious. He had performed in New York and in Maryland when the sickness started and we could not continue. When baba was diagnosed at Laurel Regional Hospital in Maryland, it was diagnosed that he had lung cancer. The doctor confirmed it. I asked baba to stay behind and treat the cancer but he said that he normally uses herbs to treat such in Nigeria. However, I made effort to treat him in the hospital and he spent 12 days and he was given some medications after which he felt okay after came back to Nigeria; he spent about five weeks in the states. He went for the therapy for four days.

However, I was shocked when I heard that baba's health relapsed after four days that he got back to Nigeria. He was taken to Ahmadiyya hospital and spent more than a week there but the management of De Deon, his sponsor, felt that he was not receiving adequate treatment at Ahmadiyya and with the consent of his family, Pa Rolling Dollar was moved to a private hospital at Adeniran Ogunsanya, Surulere where he sadly died", he narrated. He added, "Having been in contact with Baba since he got to Nigeria, I was told by the doctor at the Surulere hospital that the doctor at Ahmmadiyya told him to stop taking the medications he was being given in US. I think, maybe, Baba missed the medication and that accounted for his health relapse. Baba is not a young man. I realised according to the doctor, the chances of surviving cancer are slim. If you survive, you must have passed through a lot.

Samson Raji also refuted claims that Pa Rolling Dollar was not paid during the show as earlier reported by a national newspaper and threatened to sue them clarifying that Baba was indeed paid $500 for every show and Atawewe, a fuji musician and Sunny Agagu who opened the show. A family man

Pa Rolling Dollar, indeed, is a family man and contributed in increasing the population. Male musicians are naturally wooed by women and have their share of fans who take it further by having affairs with them and this sometimes lead to failed marriages. In an interview two years ago, he declared that he had fifteen children. This was before he was said to have married a new wife and sired a daughter. Unconfirmed reports have it that Rolling Dollar has a wife in Germany, a fan turned lover who went on to sire a baby for him.

At his residence on the day of his demise, it was a beehive of people who thronged to sympathise with his wives and kids. Not a few affirmed their love for Pa Rolling Dollar as he associated with everyone. Some of the youths noted that on most evenings, Baba used to hang around with the youths, discuss issues, and dine with them occasionally. A lot of them felt for such a popular figure to identify with them, it was lofty.

His two wives who received visitors have two young kids each. Zainab Olagunju has a 9-year-old; Mojeed and Jamiu, four years. The youngest son, obviously, not matured to know what transpired, professed his love saying, "I love my father to pressmen". Sherifat also has Moshood and Temitope, 2, the youngest of them all. His elder daughter, Nimota, noted that his mother died when she was 7 years old. She said that she would remember her father dying on June 12. "I don't have a mother again, he is the only one. Anytime, I need something, he is always there for you. My senior sister, Halimat Olangunju, based in the US is pregnant. I also have Tawa Olagunju. We are all eight in number. My daddy is a good father. He normally tells me that, if he dies I should not cry because he is government responsibility", she said amidst sobs.

One of the unfulfilled dreams of Baba was to build a school where people will be educated with different skills and they will be empowered. this indeed demonstrate his love for people.


A lot of great things and accolades have been made about the 86 year old icon.

King Sunny Ade described him as a gentleman, great artiste and father. He noted that indeed he was a Rolling Dollar.

Recounting how he heard about the news, he said, "I arrived from a job and immediately I had a meeting with Ebenezer Obey today. When I got to him, he broke the news to me. Everything he has as a gentleman, as a great artiste, as a father who really takes care of other children in music and outside music is memorable. He is a Rolling Dollar! I have been having great times with him but one was very special. About a year ago, he was a special guest on our show; me and Ebenezer Obey called 'Oleku show' last year. When I saw him on the bed now, I was visualising how he danced especially when we danced together. Definitely I will miss him a lot.

"We love him but God loves him more. Definitely, I have the belief that as he made people happy on this planet, God will put him in a special place in heaven."

Another Juju musician, Prince Wale Thomposn described him as a man who motivated him never to lose hope in life. The musician who released 'Lalale Friday' decades ago said, baba's legacy is hope when things do not seem so. "It's very sad because no matter how old he was, no one wants him dead. He was a very good father to all of us in the industry. He never sees himself like an old man. He always levelled up with everybody around him. I can remember vividly a couple of times that we met and we performed together. He inspired me. He advised me that I should never lose hope. When he was alive, people were giving him post humours award. After then, he still lived for many years before he died today. Personally, I'll give God the glory for a life well spent. I knew him since when I was young. I happen to be the son of a musician, so growing up, he used to tell me about him and his music. When I met him one on one, everything I heard about him was true; it was quite amazing.

Papa should be remembered for his legacy. I learnt that we should not lose hope in whatever we are doing. No matter how late, we should always wait for our time. Everybody is praying that his evening should be more than the morning. Papa lived a very good life. I will always remember him for his energetic performance despite the age; performing, dancing and delivering beyond the expectation of so many people", Wale Thompson said.

Another, Jimmy Garba, chairman of AJUM in Agege said, "Baba was a musician and a legend. He was a father to every one of us. And he was an elder statesman, very accommodating, very nice, very religious, gentle, and responsible. He was good to every one and ready to assist. Baba didn't look down on anybody; always ready to assist, whether you started your music yesterday or today. We all gathered round him because he told us how to do things and accommodate people. You see, all the people are gathered here because he was a loving father and musician. Personally I call him a pacesetter. He was grand patron of AJUM.

We pray for his soul to rest in peace and his work to speak after him. All his works and music here will speak after him. Fatai Rolling Dollar is not somebody you can just forget. In Juju music and the field of music generally, you can't forget him.

We sympathise with the family, especially the children. May God continue to guide and bless and be with them so that they can bear the loss because the bread winner has gone. But Baba WAs not a kid, he was an elderly man. We are making arrangements for his family. Our leaders are here, Sunny Ade is here, and our president Queen Ayo Balogun is here. Certainly something will be done to take care of the family."

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