Highlife music legend, Sir Victor Olaiya, has died at the age of 89 years.
The doyen of highlife music in Nigeria died yesterday at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), after a brief illness.
Confirming his death, the Managing Director of Evergreen Music Company Limited, Bimbo Esho revealed that he died around 12 noon yesterday.
“The entire music world wishes to announce the death of a legend of highlife music, one of the last man standing, and the last of the original, Dr. Victor Abimbola Olaiya.
“This untimely incident happened at LUTH hospital Lagos State at exactly 12 noon today (Wednesday) February 12, 2020. We pray that the doyen of highlife music find repose with the creator, while wishing the family and entire music community the fortitude to bear this irreplaceable loss.”
Olaiya, who made his claim to fame in the 1950’s was once described as “The Evil Genius of Highlife” by a renowned Daily Times satirist, Alhaji Alade Odunewu.
Born on December 31, 1930, in Calabar, Cross River State, according to his Wikipedia page, Olaiya was 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 who announced his retirement from his six-decade music career in 2017, came from a very rich family.
His father’s house called Ilijs Bar, stood on 2, Bamgbose Street, Lagos Island until it was demolished on September 11, 2016.
Olaiya who instead pursued a career as a musician in the US, to the disapproval of his parents, at an early age, learnt to play the Bombardon and the French Horn. Before diverting to music, he had moved to Lagos, where he passed the school certificate examination in 1951 and was accepted by Howard University, US, to study civil engineering.
He played with the Sammy Akpabot Band. He was the leader and trumpeter for the Old Lagos City Orchestra and he joined the Bobby Benson Jam Session Orchestra.
He formed his own band in 1954, which was called, 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.