REMEMBERING AN ICON: Dr VICTOR OLAIYA

Nigeria’s music industry over the years has constantly evolved to become a force many want to align with. Off hand, many can recall the names of various artist whose sounds and music has led to the global recognition accorded to Nigeria. Since we are blessed with a large youthful populace, our music has experienced an increasing outflow of various genres unlike the 60s that had just Apala and highlife dominating the airways. Talking about the latter, highlife in the 1960s and 70s was accepted as a result of the works of quite a few, noticeably among them was Victor Olaiya.

His music was soothing to the minds and souls of anyone listening to it. With various hits and popular songs, Dr Victor Olaiya can be said to be a major determinant of the growth of not just Nigeria’s music industry but a legend who educated and entertained Nigerians at the same time. The question who is this Dr Victor Olaiya will be asked by young folks.

Born on 31st December 1930, in Calabar, Cross River to parents who hail from Ijesha-Ishu in Ekiti state, Vitor Abimbola Olaiya became the 20th child of his parents.  As a child from a wealthy home, he had access to the best of education possible. in 1951, he sat and passed his School certificate examination and was then admitted to Howard university, United States of America to study civil engineering. While as a young boy, he learned to play the French horn and the bombardon and this influenced his decision to study music instead and as expected, his parents disapproved of such choice. Determined to succeed, he began to play on Sammy Akpabot famous band before joining the Bobby Benson Jam Session Orchestra and then becoming the lead trumpeter for the Old Lagos City Orchestra.

With experiences gathered and a strong desire to make a name for himself, Victor Olaiya formed his owned band which he named ‘the cool cats’ in 1954. Majoring in highlife music, the cool cats became known nationwide and in 1956, they performed at the state ball when Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom visited Nigeria. They then also played at state balls in 1960 and 1963 when Nigeria gained independence and became a republic respectively.  The cool cats were also selected to perform for military troops during Nigeria’s civil war. Gaining more recognition, the Cool Cats later travelled to the Congo to perform for United Nations troops.

Nicknamed as the ‘Evil Genius of Highlife’, Dr Victor Olaiya made highlife attractive and desirable by even those of the western countries. Baakodaya, a song released in 1960 became a sound played when election results were about to be released. The song also became a sign to signify that the Unity Party of Nigeria had again won the election especially in the southern region of Nigeria. Though from a rich family, Dr Olaiya was also a business man who imported musical instruments into Nigeria and other parts of Africa. He also established the stadium hotel in Surulere, Lagos.

After a long successful musical career as well as being chairman of various boards, Dr Victor Olaiya had to retire from music in 2017 but not after he wowed Nigerians with the remix of one of his ever green songs. in 2013, he teamed up with 2face Idibia to remix ‘baby jowo’ and this music was accepted by the young and served as a musical bridge to the older generations who were agile when the song was first released.

According to him, he wished he could have re-done many of his songs with his peers but he was the only one amongst them all that was still alive.  On 12th, February 2020, Dr Victor Olaiya died of age related illness at the Lagos state teaching hospital, at the age of 89. His death was felt by many but more by the older ones who experienced his music firsthand. Though a legend and an Icon is gone, his musical impact is being felt even in today’s contemporary Nigeria music industry. Rest in peace Dr Victor Olaiya, aka Papingo Dalaya. He is our PERSONALITY OF THE MONTH FOR FEBRUARY 2020.

This article was written for Fatherland Gazette by SOLA ALOGBA

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