The death of veteran Highlife musician, Sir Victor Olaiya, aged 89, may have created a vacuum very huge to fill, but it has also given the showbiz industry a reminiscence of the life and times of the showbiz impresario. He brought joy to millions of fans around the country through his music, with stars, public figures and ordinary people all giving emotional tributes following his passing eon Wednesday.
Despite that he was one of the most famous people in Nigeria, we believe there are still lots of things many don’t know about him.
Below are 12 exciting things no one has probably told you about the legendary singer:
1. Sir Victor Olaiya was born on December 31, 1930, in Calabar, Cross River State.
2. He was the 20th child of a family of 24.
3. Olaiya was from a very rich family from Ijesha-Ishu in Ekiti State. His parents were, Alfred Omolona Olaiya and Bathsheba Owolabi Motajo.
4. His father’s iconic house called Ilọijọs Bar stood on 2, Bamgbose Street, Lagos Island, until it was demolished on September 11, 2016.
5. Olaiya passed the school certificate examination in 1951 and was accepted by Howard University, US, to study civil engineering. Instead, he pursued a career as a musician, to the disapproval of his parents.
6. After playing under several band, Olaiya formed his own band, the Cool Cats, in 1954.
7. The Cool Cats made history in 1956, when the band was chosen to play at the state ball for visiting Queen Elizabeth II, and later to play at the state balls when Nigeria became independent in 1960.
8. During his time, 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.
9. Olaiya renamed his band to the All Stars Band when they played the 1963 International Jazz Festival in Czechoslovakia now Czech Republic.
10. Aside performing, Olaiya also ran a business that imported and distributed musical instruments and accessories throughout West Africa, and established the Stadium Hotel in Surulere.
11. Olaiya married many wives. He had children and grandchildren. One of his daughters, Moji Olaiya, was a Nollywood actress who died 2017 in Canada.
12. 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. In July 2013, Victor Olaiya made a comeback when he released a music video remix of Baby Jowo (Baby Mi Da) with 2face Idibia.