Victor Olaiya would be missed; check his journey in music and more

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Reports came in yesterday that highlife singer Victor Olaiya is dead, the Baby Jowo crooner was said to have passed on at Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH)

He passed on at the age of 89 at exactly 12pm on Wednesday, February 12, 2020, the sad news was reported by the managing director of Evergreen Music Company, Bimbo Esho via her Facebook page.

In the post shared on her page, Esho wrote: “The Death of the Doyen of Highlife music in Nigeria. The entire music world wish to announce the death of a Legend of Highlife music one of the last man standing, the last of the original Dr Victor Abimbola Olaiya OON..

He was born on 31 December 1930 in Calabar, Cross River State, the 20th child of a family of 24. His parents, Alfred Omolona Olaiya and Bathsheba Owolabi Motajo, came from Ijesha-Ishu in Ekiti State. Olaiya came from a very rich family. His father’s house called Ilọijọs Bar stood on 2 Bamgbose Street, Lagos Island, until it was demolished on 11 September 2016. At an early age he learned to play the Bombardon and the French Horn. After leaving school he moved to Lagos, where he passed the school certificate examination in 1951 and was accepted by Howard University, US, to study civil engineering. Olaiya instead pursued a career as a musician, to the disapproval of his parents. He played with the Sammy Akpabot Band, was leader and trumpeter for the Old Lagos City Orchestra and joined the Bobby Benson Jam Session Orchestra.

In 1954 Olaiya formed his own band, the Cool Cats, playing popular highlife music. His band was chosen to play at the state ball when Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom visited Nigeria in 1956, and later to play at the state balls when Nigeria became independent in 1960 and when Nigeria became a republic in 1963. On the latter occasion, Olaiya shared the stage with the American jazz musician Louis Armstrong. During the Nigerian Civil War of 1967–70, Olaiya was given the rank of a lieutenant colonel (honorary) in the Nigerian army and his band played for the troops at various locations. The Cool Cats later travelled to the Congo to perform for United Nations troops.

Olaiya renamed his band to the All Stars Band when they played the 1963 International Jazz Festival in Czechoslovakia. Olaiya also ran a business that imported and distributed musical instruments and accessories throughout West Africa, and established the Stadium Hotel in Surulere. In 1990, Olaiya received a fellowship of the Institute of Administrative Management of Nigeria. For a period, he was also president of the Nigerian Union of Musicians.

Olaiya married many wives. He had children and grandchildren. One of his daughters, Moji Olaiya, was a Nollywood actress. He sang with his son Bayode Olaiya.

Olaiya’s music bridges between Ghanaian highlife and what would become Afrobeat. His musical style was influenced by James Brown, with horn parts harmonised in Brown’s style, as opposed to the mostly unison lines of Afrobeat. The music includes the swinging percussion of Tony Allen, but not the syncopated style that Allen later pioneered. Olaiya released an album with Ghanaian highlife musician E. T. Mensah. Both the drummer Tony Allen and vocalist Fela Kuti played with Olaiya and went on to achieve individual success.

In July 2013, Victor Olaiya released a music video remix of Baby Jowo (Baby Mi Da)with 2face idibia and was received with much acclaim.

See his albums below;

Date Group Album Format Label
Late 1950s/Early 1960s Victor Olaiya & his Cool Cats Odale Ore b/w Mofe Muyon 10″ 78 Badejo’s Sound Studios BBA 150
1960s? Various Artists Catchy Rhythms from Nigeria – Vol. 2 10″ LP Philips West Africa [Lagos] P 13401
1961 Dr. Victor Olaiya & his All Stars Olaiya’s Victories 10″ LP Philips [Netherlands] 13403
Early 1960s Various Artists Catchy Rhythms From Nigeria – Vol. 3 (10″ LP Philips West Africa [Lagos] 13404
1960s Victor Olaiya & his Cool Cats Afro-Rhythm Parade Vol. 2 7″ EP Philips [Netherlands] 420001
1960s? Victor Olaiya & his All Stars Oruku Tiniditindi / Iye Jemila 7″ 45 Philips [Lagos] 303 015
1960s Victor Olaiya & his All Stars Pambotoriboto b/w Moonlight Highlife 7″ 45 Philips [Lagos] 382357
1960s Victor Olaiya & his All Stars Feso J’aiye / Asian Udo 7″ 45 Philips [Lagos] 382 397
1960s Victor Olaiya & his All Stars Kosowo Lode b/w Ewelewekuewele 7″ 45 Philips [Lagos] 382739
1960s Victor Olaiya & his All Stars Afro-Rhythm Parade Vol. 7 7″ EP Philips [Lagos] 420014
Late 1960s? Various Artists West Africa’s Big Sound 7” EP Philips [Lagos] 420023 PE
1982 Dr. Victor Olaiya In the Sixties LP Polydor [Lagos] POLP 066
1982 Dr. Victor Olaiya Highlife Reincaration LP Polydor [Lagos] POLP 073
1983 Dr. Victor Olaiya Ilu Le O (Country Hard 0!) LP Polydor [Lagos] POLP 096
1983 Various Artists African Music LP Vertigo [Netherlands] 814 480-1
1983 E.T. Mensah & Dr. Victor Olaiya Highlife Giants of Africa Vol. 1 LP Polydor [Lagos] POLP 102
1986 Dr. Victor Olaiya Papingo Davalaya LP Polydor [Lagos] POLP 156
2001? Dr. Victor Olaiya The Best of Dr. Victor Olaiya – 3 Decades of Highlife CD Premier Music [Lagos] KMCD003
2003? Dr. Victor Abimbola Olaiya Highlife in The 80’s –

The Best of Dr. Victor Olaiya
Vol. 2 – Evil Genius of Highlife CD Premier Music [Lagos] KMCD007
2002? Various Artists High Life Kings Vol. 1 CD Premier Music [Lagos] KMCD 01
2002? Various Artists High Life Kings Vol. 2 CD Premier Music [Lagos] KMCD 02
2003 Various Artists The Rough Guide to Highlife CD World Music Network [UK]
2003? Various Artists The Kings of Highlife CD Wrasse Records [UK] WRASS 097
2005 Victor Olaiya & his International All Stars
/ St. Augustine Let Yourself Go/There Was a Time / Papa de Love 7″45 Soundway Records [UK] SNDW 7002
2009 Victor Olaiya’s All Stars Soul International Victor Olaiya’s All Stars Soul International.

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