Almost every music lover knows the song “Easy Motion Tourist” made popular by Fatai Rolling Dollars. But what many do not know is that Fatai did not wrote the song. So, who did? Thisislagos.ng’s resident music critic, Dami Ajayi schools us in this piece dripping with nostalgia...
Every relevant and influential song will always create its own myth.
This much can be said about Easy Motion Tourist, a guitar-based soulful song that has continued to linger on dance floors in Nigeria since the ‘50s.
The catchy title, Easy Motion Tourist—part-instructive, part-complimentary—already lends itself as book title to a crime novel set in Lagos by Leye Adenle, a music aficionado in his own right.
Easy Motion Tourist is a popular tune that is frequently covered by local bands.
If you are a habitue of Freedom Park, you may have heard the sensational Afrobeats singer, Edaoto, doing the song as part of a medley.
King Sunny Ade’s Grammy nominated 1998 album, Odu, has got a version of Easy Motion Tourist as well.
King Sunny Ade, who seldom covers songs, does justice to this song. In KSA’s cover, both the guitar and talking drum are in an artful conversation. The song is a symphony of sorts to which KSA lends his mellow and coarse voice.
Easy Motion Tourist is one of the most important songs on the Odu album and here is why: it is delightful and anachronistic tourism; it is modern Juju music playing palmwine highlife in a manner that it was not conceived to be played. Little wonder, some music lovers opine that King Sunny Ade wrote the song.
King Sunny Ade did not write Easy Motion Tourist. Fatai Rolling Dollar, Chief Ebenezer Obey’s one-time boss, did not write Easy Motion Tourist either.
It is exciting that Fatai Rolling Dollar, while enjoying a geriatric resurgence of his music career revisited this song.
As an Agidigbo exponent and Highlife crossover musician, Rolling Dollar re-imagines Easy Motion Tourist as a Highlife tune with wailing guitars and a tempo slightly quicker than the typical Juju rhythm. His synthesis is no doubt funky and perhaps this is why it is Leye Adenle’s preferred version.
Rolling Dollar has an organic relationship with Easy Motion Tourist for obvious reasons. Rolling Dollar, J.O Araba and Seni Tejuosho formed a band called Rhythm Blues in the 1953. They scored a number of hits together till they broke up in 1957. Amongst their evergreen hits were Ranka Dede, Kele gbe Megbe and Easy Motion Tourist.
The inspiration to write the song came from Seni Tejuosho’s nocturnal peregrinations. He was said to have been locked out of his parent’s home after returning from a night-party presumably drunk.
The song is a humorous account of being locked out on the one hand but it reflects on deeper issues in a seemingly playful and prayerful mode.
Expectedly, this composition is not evergreen or influential for its lyrical depth; rather, it is peculiarly loved for its lyrical departure and disjointedness. One moment, it is a praise song. The next moment, it is laying a complaint. Yet in another instant, it is an intoned prayer.
Seni Tejuosho is credited with having written this evergreen song. His version is little known. Although his rhythm is paced like Calypso, his sound is bare and hardly sophisticated. The poor mastering also did not help matters, giving his rendition the improvised feel of an unrehearsed set.
Film-maker Remi Vaughan Richards released a film called Faaji Agba. This documentary closely follows a corps of geriatric musicians (reminiscent of the Cuban collective Buena Vista Social Club) as they prepare to re-launch their music career with an international tour.
These musicians include Alaba Pedro, Eji Oyewole, Sina Ayinde-Bakare, Fatai Rolling Dollar, S. F. Olowookere, Samson Adegbite, Taiye Anyowale, Nureini Sunmola, Kunle Adeniran and Niyi Ajileye.
Over the six year span of the film, the ensemble cast bow out one after the other, succumbing to mortality, leaving just two alive. Seni Tejuoso who had a cameo in this film is cut shot by death.
This delightful story of beautiful melodies from the Golden Age of Nigerian music is a double dose of nostalgia and tragedy: about men and women who dedicated themselves to their craft and made evergreen tunes. Their songs live on robustly in communal memory whilst they fade away.
Let’s return to the lyrical composition of the song. What if the tourist referred to is every man and the tourist experience is life itself? Then the song moves from a place of praise to a place of pleas: Easy motion, Tourist.