Dr Victor Abimbola Olaiya, a native of Ekiti State was born on December 31, 1931 in Calabar, Cross River State, where his parents, Alfred Omolona Olaiya and Bathsheba Owolabi Motajo, had gone to settle. The 20th child of a family of 24, Olaiya speaks Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba fluently.
His father was a church organist while his mother was a folk singer. It was little wonder he took to music at a tender age, while equally pursuing his education. Young Olaiya had his first feel of playing music at the African School, Onitsha, where he was exposed to playing such instruments like the B- Flat Clarinet and the French Horn before eventually graduating to the trumpet
He moved to Las Gidi on completion of his secondary education and took to full time music. He played for bands of Bobby Benson & Sammy Akpabot. In 1954, a young Victor left the popular Bobby Benson Jam Session Orchestra, where he was leader and trumpeter of the second band, to start his own band, Cool Cats Orchestra with ABC Cole (Late); he made his debut that same year. He formed his own band Victor Olaiya & The All Stars Orchestra in 1956. After that there was no stopping Olaiya from blowing his trumpet to stardom.
Olaiya was tagged the “Evil Genius of Highlife” at the Havannah Musical Festival, University of Ibadan after holding the audience spellbound for hours with his magical performance. His band gained national recognition when it was selected to play at the state ball, which highlighted major activities of her Royal majesty – Queen Elizabeth of England visit to Nigeria in 1956. He got conferred with an honorary PhD in African Music in Czechoslovakia during the 1st International Jazz festival in Prague. His band was the sole band to play during the 1st ever Miss Nigeria competition and the October 1st 1960 independence ceremony as well as in 1963 when Nigerian became a republic.
Olaiya also served his country as he rose to the rank of a lieutenant colonel (honorary) in the Nigerian Army when his band was commissioned to play at the various war fronts, during the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70. He was also drafted to perform for the troops on the United Nations mission to Congo (now Zaire) crisis.
He also released a collaboration album with Highlife King – E. T. Mensah of Ghana. Apart from hitting top music chat with series of his album releases, Olaiya was also engaged in the thriving business of importation and distribution of musical instruments and accessories, which spans the entire West African sub-region. He equally established the ultra-modern Stadium Hotel in Surulere, which today provides an outlet for a good number of Nigerian artistes to showcase their acts just as it has provided the popular acclaimed highlife evil genius a convenient venue to thrill his teaming fans with regular weekend gigs.
A talented sports man and lover of pets, Olaiya was in 1990 conferred with the fellowship of the Institute of Administrative Management of Nigeria and another PhD (honorary) by the City University of Los Angeles, California, USA. He was former president of the Nigerian Union of Musicians (NUM) and still played his highlife gigs to thrill at his Stadium Hotel complex.
His popular songs are “Omo Pupa”, “Iye Jemila”, “Ilu Le”, “Baby Juwo” and “Trumpet Highlife”. “Omo Pupa” was done in late 50s and be found on his “In the Sixties” LP release by Polydor in 1982.
Dr. Victor Olaiya is a legend thanks to his music career and is regarded as one of Nigeria’s greatest musicians. His music made massive waves in the past and is pretty much grooving the present, and promises to have an important role in the future.
Both the drummer Tony Allen and Legend Fela Kuti played with Olaiya and went on to achieve individual success. Kola Ogunkoya played in the All Stars Band from 1986 to 1987 and went on to have a highly successful career with his own Afrobeat band. At 78, the celebrated highlife maestro still pulls the crowd at his periodic live performances.