Portrait of Dr. Victor Olaiya at Ojuelegba in Lagos
Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP via Getty Images
Trumpeter And Highlife Luminary Dr. Victor Olaiya Dies At 89
According to a Wednesday (Feb. 12) report from Nigeria's Punch newspaper, the legendary trumpeter and highlife musician Victor Olaiya, has died.
Frequently referred to as the "evil genius of highlife," or Dr. Victor Abimbola Olaiya OOON, Olaiya was 89 years old.
The news was confirmed by Managing Director of the Evergreen Music Company, Bimbo Esho.
Olaiya was at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital in Nigeria when he passed, reportedly due to a brief illness that has not been specified.
Highlife is originally a Ghanian style of music that rose to prominence in the early 20th century by using the rhythms, melodies and sensibility of traditional Akan music played on popular western instruments.
Olaiya is often credited with contributing to the structure of Nigeria’s music industry, having become one of the country's first widely successful artists during the 1960s within the genre.
As a boy, Olaiaya learned how to play the French Horn and Bombardon, which eventually lead to his exploration of various other instruments including the trumpet and the saxophone. After rejecting the chance to pursue an education in Civil Engineering at Howard University, Olaiya went the route of music and played alongside the Sammy Akpabot Band while also leading the Old Lagos City Orchestra with his trumpet. In 1954, he broke away from the Bobby Benson Jam Orchestra in order to start his own troupe called the Cool Cats, which was later renamed as the All-Star.
Throughout the '60s his discography grew tremendously as the artist began to explore his own musicality, much of his material having been reissued for his fans for years to come. Throughout his career, the "Taxi Driver" and "Baby Mi Da (Baby Jowo)" singer performed alongside Louis Armstrong, performed for Queen Elizabeth II at a Lagos state ball, and he even once served as the President of the Nigerian Union of Musicians.
Olaiya's life and work are still prominently celebrated by Nigerian music fans and beyond. His legacy of excellence in music and worldwide impact through instrumentation will live imminently.
Details regarding a memorial service for Olaiya have yet to be announced.