Foremost Nigerian highlife musician, Pa Victor Olaiya, has died at the age of 89. He passed on at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital on February 12 after a protracted battle with stroke.
Born on 31 December 1930, in Calabar, Cross River state, Victor Olaiya was the 20th child in a family of 24. His parents, Alfred Omolona Olaiya and Bathsheba Owolabi Motajo, hail from Ijesha-Ishu in Ekiti State.
In 1951, he gained admission to Howard University to study Civil Engineering, but he abandoned it to pursue a career in music.
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.
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 was most prolific in the 1960s, releasing numerous singles which were reissued many times over the years. In 2012, Nigeria celebrated his more than 60 years on stage at Lagos City Hall. In July 2013, Victor Olaiya released a music video remix of Baby Jowo (Baby Mi Da) with 2Face Idibia and it was hugely successful.
Pa Victor Olaiya is survived by many wives, numerous children and grandchildren. One of his daughters, Moji Olaiya, was a Nollywood actress.