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Victor Olaiya – Musician

Early Life

Olaiya was born on 31 December 1930 in Calabar to Yoruba parents. He was from  a polygamous home,  the 20th of 24 children.  Olaiya grew up  with a strong love for music. In the early 1950s, he was admitted to study Civil Engineering at Howard University in the United States but opted to pursue a career in music instead.

 

Career

Back in Nigeria, he joined various music bands, eventually ending up with another old music great, Bobby Benson. Victor Olaiya started as a trumpeter with Bobby Benson's band, and became one of the first Nigerian musicians to play highlife.

Olaiya played with “King of Highlife” E.T. Mensah for long periods both in Nigeria and across West Africa before forming his own band, the Cool Cats. The era was before independence and his music quickly grew. Olaiya performed at Nigeria's Independence Day celebration in 1960 and was often called to the warfront to entertain troops during the Nigerian Civil War. During the war, he was given the honorary title of "Lieutenant Colonel".

In 1963 when they played at the International Jazz Festival in Czechoslovakia, Olaiya renamed his band  the All Stars Band. He also ran a business that imported and distributed musical instruments and accessories throughout West Africa, and established the Stadium Hotel in Surulere, Lagos. In 1990, Olaiya received a fellowship of the Institute of Administrative Management of Nigeria.

His tracks include  “Ilu Le O” released in 1983 in which he sings about how hard the country was that a babe would dress up and visit you, talking about how she has missed you but the truth is that she’s only after your money;  “So Fun Mi”;  “Tina Mate”, and “Lafia We Lawani”.

Olaiya also sang in Igbo  with tracks like “Omolanke” that had entirely Igbo verses and "Ekwe Ngbaduga" sang fully in Igbo. In July 2013, he released a music video remix of Baby Jowo (Baby Mi Da) with 2face Idibia that was received with much acclaim.

Dr. Victor Olaiya died 12th February, 2020 at Lagos University Teaching Hospital aged 89.

 

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