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Highlife legend, Victor Olaiya buried in Lagos

Highlife legend, Victor Olaiya, has been buried in a private ceremony that was attended by family members and few friends.

Born on 31 December 1930 in Calabar, the remains of the man fondly referred to as the Evil Genius of Highlife, died on 12 February 2020 at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital at 89 was laid to rest on 7 May 2020.

Born in a rich home, his father’s house, Ilọijọs Bar, once stood at 2 Bamgbose Street, Lagos Island, until it was demolished in September 2016.

He was a legendary trumpeter and learnt, at an early age, to play the bombardon and the French horn.

After passing the school certificate examination in 1951 he was admitted into Howard University, in the United States, to study civil engineering but he instead chose to pursue a career as a musician.

He once played with Sammy Akpabot Band, was leader and trumpeter for the Old Lagos City Orchestra and later joined the Bobby Benson Jam Session Orchestra.

He formed his own band, the Cool Cats, In 1954, playing popular highlife music. His band was chosen to play at the state ball when Queen Elizabeth II of the UK visited Nigeria in 1956, and latery at the state balls when Nigeria became independent in 1960 and a republic in 1963 (where he shared the stage with the American jazz musician, Louis Armstrong.

Afrobeat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, and drummer, Tony Allen, were once members of his band.

In 1990, Olaiya was honoured by the federal government when he was given Order of the Niger award.

In 2013, he and popular Nigeria artiste Tubaba did a “collabo”, a remix of one of the songs in his album, Mofe Muyan but was later rechristened Baby Mi Da. He was 82 at the time.

He was the father of Moji Olaiya, Nollywood actress who died in Canada in 2017.

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Written by Vivian Ifezue


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