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Global Routes with Tony Burke Rogie: music that has aged like fine palm wine

THE king of palm wine music (named after the effects of drinking palm’s natural juice) Sooliman Ernest Rogers was born in 1926 in Sierra Leone.

As a semi professional musician using the nickname Rogie, in 1965 he formed a band The Morning Stars (yes, it’s true!) and had local hits, notably My Lovely Elizabeth becoming a national star by self-releasing 45s and albums.

In 1973 he headed to San Francisco creating an underground African music scene with his African Folk and Culture Show of educational programmes for schoolkids and entertainment for the elderly which received recognition the US Congress and Senate.

He released a 1986 compilation on his own Rogiphone Records, which found its way to broadcaster Andy Kershaw, champion of global music who had just finished recording a BBC music and travel radio series The Promised Land in California.

He rang the number for Rogiphone Records, met Rogie and suggested he move to the UK.

In 1988, Rogie moved to Finchley becoming a much loved singer, guitarist and songwriter on the global music scene.

Recording albums for Workers Playtime Records, he appeared at festivals and on Kershaw and John Peel’s radio shows with his band The Palm Wine Tappers.

In 1993 and early 1994 he recorded his classic album Dead Men Don’t Smoke Marijuana with great guitar tunes including Jaimgba Tutu (The Joy of Success) and Nyalomei Luange (Love Me My Love).

In February 1994 he underwent heart bypass surgery and against doctor’s orders he travelled to Russia but took ill on stage. He was flown by air ambulance to the UK but died in hospital.

Thankfully his music ages like fine palm wine — his swansong album has just been reissued on CD and vinyl by Real World Productions, don’t miss it.

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