Victor Olaiya

Victor Abimbola Olaiya OON, (31 December 1930 – 12 February 2020), also known as Dr Victor Olaiya, was a Nigerian trumpeter who played in the highlife style. Though famous in Nigeria during the 1950s and early 1960s, Olaiya received little recognition outside his native country. Alhaji Alade Odunewu of the Daily Times called him "The Evil Genius of Highlife."[1]

Victor Olaiya
Birth nameVictor Abimbola Olaiya
Born(1930-12-31)31 December 1930
Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria
Died12 February 2020(2020-02-12) (aged 88)
Lagos, Nigeria
Occupation(s)Trumpeter, bandleader, businessman

Early lifeEdit

Olaiya was born on 31 December 1930,[2] in Calabar, Cross River State, the 20th child of a family of 24. His parents, Alfred Omolona Olaiya and Bathsheba Owolabi Motajo, came from Ijesha-Ishu in Ekiti State.[3]

Olaiya came from a very rich family. His father's house, Ilọijọs Bar, stood at 2 Bamgbose Street, Lagos Island, until it was demolished in September 2016.[4][5]


At an early age he learned to play the bombardon and the French horn. After leaving school he moved to Lagos, where he passed the school certificate examination in 1951 and was accepted by Howard University, US, to study civil engineering. Olaiya instead pursued a career as a musician, to the disapproval of his parents. He played with the Sammy Akpabot Band, was leader and trumpeter for the Old Lagos City Orchestra and joined the Bobby Benson Jam Session Orchestra.[3][6]

In 1954, Olaiya formed his own band, the Cool Cats, 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 later to play at the state balls when Nigeria became independent in 1960 and when Nigeria became a republic in 1963. On the latter occasion, Olaiya shared the stage with the American jazz musician Louis Armstrong. During the Nigerian Civil War of 1967–70, Olaiya was given the rank of a lieutenant colonel (honorary) in the Nigerian army, and his band played for the troops at various locations. The Cool Cats later travelled to the Congo to perform for United Nations troops.

Olaiya renamed his band to the All Stars Band when they played the 1963 International Jazz Festival in Czechoslovakia.[3]

Olaiya also ran a business that imported and distributed musical instruments and accessories in West Africa, he also established the Stadium Hotel in Surulere.[6]

Olaiya was bestowed the second rank (officer) of the national Order of the Niger award.[7][8] In 1990, he received a fellowship of the Institute of Administrative Management of Nigeria. For a period, he was also president of the Nigerian Union of Musicians.[3]

Personal lifeEdit

Olaiya had several wives. He had children and grandchildren. One of his daughters, Moji Olaiya, was a Nollywood actress.[9] He sang with his son Bayode Olaiya.

Olaiya died on 12 February 2020 at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, at age 89.


Olaiya's music bridges between Ghanaian highlife and what would become Afrobeat.

His musical style was influenced by James Brown, with horn parts harmonised in Brown's style, as opposed to the mostly unison lines of Afrobeat. The music includes the swinging percussion of Tony Allen, but not the syncopated style that Allen later pioneered.[10]

Olaiya released an album with Ghanaian highlife musician E. T. Mensah.[3] Both the drummer Tony Allen and vocalist Fela Kuti played with Olaiya and went on to achieve individual success.[10][11]


A partial list of albums:[12]

Date Group Album Format Label
Late 1950s/Early 1960s Victor Olaiya & his Cool Cats Odale Ore b/w Mofe Muyon 10" 78 Badejo's Sound Studios BBA 150
1960s? Various Artists Catchy Rhythms from Nigeria – Vol. 2 10" LP Philips West Africa [Lagos] P 13401
1961 Dr. Victor Olaiya & his All Stars Olaiya's Victories 10" LP Philips [Netherlands] 13403
Early 1960s Various Artists Catchy Rhythms From Nigeria – Vol. 3 (10" LP Philips West Africa [Lagos] 13404
1960s Victor Olaiya & his Cool Cats Afro-Rhythm Parade Vol. 2 7" EP Philips [Netherlands] 420001
1960s? Victor Olaiya & his All Stars Oruku Tiniditindi / Iye Jemila 7" 45 Philips [Lagos] 303 015
1960s Victor Olaiya & his All Stars Pambotoriboto b/w Moonlight Highlife 7" 45 Philips [Lagos] 382357
1960s Victor Olaiya & his All Stars Feso J'aiye / Asian Udo 7" 45 Philips [Lagos] 382 397
1960s Victor Olaiya & his All Stars Kosowo Lode b/w Ewelewekuewele 7" 45 Philips [Lagos] 382739
1960s Victor Olaiya & his All Stars Afro-Rhythm Parade Vol. 7 7" EP Philips [Lagos] 420014
Late 1960s? Various Artists West Africa's Big Sound 7" EP Philips [Lagos] 420023 PE
1982 Dr. Victor Olaiya In the Sixties LP Polydor [Lagos] POLP 066
1982 Dr. Victor Olaiya Highlife Reincaration LP Polydor [Lagos] POLP 073
1983 Dr. Victor Olaiya Ilu Le O (Country Hard 0!) LP Polydor [Lagos] POLP 096
1983 Various Artists African Music LP Vertigo [Netherlands] 814 480-1
1983 E.T. Mensah & Dr. Victor Olaiya Highlife Giants of Africa Vol. 1 LP Polydor [Lagos] POLP 102
1986 Dr. Victor Olaiya Papingo Davalaya LP Polydor [Lagos] POLP 156
2001? Dr. Victor Olaiya The Best of Dr. Victor Olaiya – 3 Decades of Highlife CD Premier Music [Lagos] KMCD003
2003? Dr. Victor Abimbola Olaiya Highlife in The 80's
The Best of Dr. Victor Olaiya
Vol. 2 – Evil Genius of Highlife
CD Premier Music [Lagos] KMCD007
2002? Various Artists High Life Kings Vol. 1 CD Premier Music [Lagos] KMCD 01
2002? Various Artists High Life Kings Vol. 2 CD Premier Music [Lagos] KMCD 02
2003 Various Artists The Rough Guide to Highlife CD World Music Network [UK]
2003? Various Artists The Kings of Highlife CD Wrasse Records [UK] WRASS 097
2005 Victor Olaiya & his International All Stars
/ St. Augustine
Let Yourself Go/There Was a Time / Papa de Love 7"45 Soundway Records [UK] SNDW 7002
2009 Victor Olaiya's All Stars Soul International Victor Olaiya's All Stars Soul International CD Vampisoul [Spain] VAMPI 107)
2012 Various Artists The Rough Guide To Psychedelic Africa CD World Music Network [UK] RGNET 1270

Further readingEdit

  • H. Olufela Davies (1964). The Victor Olaiya Story. Sankey Print Works.


  1. ^ "Victor Olaiya's All Stars Soul International". Paris DJs. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
  2. ^ "Highlife Godfather Victor Olaiya celebrates 80 years in grand style as Nigeria showbiz all greats re-emerge in solidarity". EMNNEWS ONLINE. 19 January 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e Richard Eghaghe. "Victor Olaiya: 50 years of ingenious highlife on stage". Daily Independent. Retrieved 11 April 2019 – via Worldservice.
  4. ^ "Update on the Demolition of Olaiya House". 18 September 2016. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  5. ^ "Demolishing History". 25 September 2016. Retrieved 25 September 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Victor Olaiya: Fela Learnt The Trumpet in My Band". This Day. 24 April 2004. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
  7. ^ Victor Olaiya: Nigeria's 'evil genius' trumpeter who influenced Fela Kuti, BBC, 21 March 2020
  8. ^ Victor Olaiya, Veteran Highlife Musician Dies At 89, Daily Independent, 12 Feb 2020
  9. ^ "My father does not like acting — Moji, Victor Olaiya's daughter". The Punch. Retrieved 26 March 2015.
  10. ^ a b David Ryshpan. "Victor Olaiya, All Star Soul International". Exclaim!. Archived from the original on 1 January 2013. Retrieved 3 November 2009.
  11. ^ John Collins (1985). Musicmakers of West Africa. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 113. ISBN 0-89410-075-0.
  12. ^ "Discography of Victor Olaiya". John Beadle. Retrieved 3 November 2009.

External linksEdit