We are grateful to God that while he was alive and well with us, this tribute was penned at the dawn of the new millennium (in 1999)… But at high noon on Wednesday, February 12, 2020, the pioneer of pioneers took a final blast on his trumpet, as he bowed…out of this strange and beautiful world.
VICTOR OWOLABI ABIMBOLA OLAIYA, OON
He was born in Calabar, December 31, almost (69) years ago (now 89). At different points in his apprenticeship, Olaiya worked with Bobby Benson, Sam Akpabot, Lagos City Orchestra and Ritz Tempo Orchestra.
(Almost a decade) before he formed his own All Stars Orchestra, the “Evil Genius of Highlife” (as coined by great journalist of the 60s/70s, Alade Odunewu, aka Allah De) founded Cool Cats Orchestra with A.B. Cole in1954.
The unique vocal attribute and dexterity on wind instruments of V.O.A. Olaiya trumpeted his contributions to the pantheon of great Nigerian music. We cannot forget Omo Pupa, llu Le O, Lafiaji, lye Jemila, (Yabomisa, So Fun Mi, Mofe Mu Yan, Labalaba, Pariboto Riboto, Lafia We Lawani, F’eso Jaiye, Ai Ga Ne, Oruku Tindi Tindi), etc.
In 1963, Olaiya bagged a honorary doctorate degree in far away Prague, old Czechoslovakia. (36) years after, we salute the great moving spirit of Nigerian highlife in this millennium – Dr. Victor Olaiya.
POSTSCRIPT: It is largely, I suspect, a mixture of powerful intestinal strength and bohemian braggadocio that about 20 years after the above was written, the pangs of bereavement within the family, and downturn in the fortunes of the once great throbbing habitat that was Stadium Hotel, Surulere, the great Wind-man still charmed us with his pristine trumpet and gleaming white ‘kerchief… gliding with the windstorm and rolling with the whirlwind…before the final curtain fell. What a man!