Highlife veteran, Victor Olaiya, exits the stage on health grounds

By Daniel Anazia   |   18 February 2017   |   1:53 am  

Dr Olaiya on stage

Legendary highlife singer, Abimbola Victor Olaiya well known as Victor Olaiya, has retired from active music and public live performances. Born on December 31, 1930, the ‘evil genius of highlife’ as described of him by Alade Odunewu in the then Daily Times, became extremely famous in Nigeria in 1950s and early 1960s, and received little recognition outside the country for his music

The Baby Jowo crooner, who was a regular performer at the Papingo Club of Stadium Hotel, Surulere, Lagos has been conspicuously absent for about a year, due to ailing health and based on doctor’s recommendations.

The highlife veteran is unusually absent from the ‘nightlife faithful gathering’ he established, which holds every Saturday at the Stadium Hotel. Dr Olaiya, as gathered had stopped attending the weekly gig and occasional performances for over a year for obvious health reasons.

“Aside from attending his gigs, he no longer comes to work regularly as a result of age-related health issues,” said Gbenga Adewusi, his manager.

After years of playing with the Sammy Akpabot band, where he was leader and trumpeter for the old Lagos City Orchestra, he joined the Bobby Benson Jam Orchestra session. In 1954, he formed his own band, the Cool Cats and later renamed it the All Stars Band, when they played the 1963 International Jazz festival in Czeechoslovakia.

Dr Olaiya released an album with Ghanaian highlife musician E. T. Mensah. Both the drummer Tony Allen and vocalist Fela Kuti played with highlife maestro and went on to achieve individual success.

The octogenarian released over 26 projects over the course of his active performance from the late 1950s through to 2012. In July 2013, he featured one of Nigeria’s all time hip-hop act, Innocent Ujah Idibia also known as 2Face idibia or 2Baba on the remix of his hit song Baby Jowo (Baby mi).

His music 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.

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Abimbola Victor Olaiya


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