LAGOS (AFP) - An 85-year-old music legend in Nigeria, known for the “highlife” dance music that once dominated West Africa, Fatai Rolling Dollar has mounted a surprising comeback five decades after his heyday. The octogenarian, who saw his fame and money dwindle when highlife’s popularity faded, is again playing the upbeat sound on guitar to packed venues and remains, despite his age, one of Nigeria’s snappiest dressers.

Wearing a yellow-and-blue outfit, canary yellow sunglasses and a military beret, he sits in a popular Lagos bar discussing the highlife music that was born in Ghana in the early 1900s and reached its peak in the region in the 1950s and early 1960s.  Highlife features quick, repetitive rhythms driven by electric guitar and wind instruments played beneath a sometimes melancholic chant that typically satirises modern life.

In highlife’s golden era, Fatai was a nationally celebrated performer along with Fela Kuti, the legendary afrobeat musician who also boldly campaigned against Nigeria’s military dictators.

Although the rise of hip-hop has radically changed the music scene in Africa’s most populous nation, Fatai is trying to ensure that highlife does not disappear completely.