Monday, February 17, 2020

Farewell, "Evil Genius"



Dr. Victor Abimbola Olaiya, known as the "Evil Genius" of Nigerian Highlife music, passed away Wednesday, February 12, at the age of 89. Thus ends an era in Nigerian music. Olaiya was probably the last paladin of the classic "Big Band" highlife style, certainly one of the few remaining practitioners of highlife of any kind in southwestern Nigeria. The genre continues as a guitar-based style in southeastern Nigeria, although there it is endangered as well.

The Daily Post of Lagos reports that President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria responded to the news with a statement of condolences:

A statement signed by Femi Adesina, the president’s spokesperson, said President Buhari “condoles with the family, friends and all lovers of vintage highlife music as played by Dr Victor Abimbola Olaiya, who passed on at 89.” The President noted that the highlife maestro, known for his mastery of the trumpet, brought joy and delight to people across generations, with his songs which were both entertaining and didactic. 
According to President Buhari, “His place in history is guaranteed. He sang, not just for the entertainment value, but also taught critical lessons on life, good neighbourliness, and national cohesion. He will be sorely missed.” He urged the younger generations of musicians to learn a lesson from Olaiya, so that their songs can also remain evergreen, and outlive them, noting that the departed musician’s works transcended Nigeria, the West Coast, and, indeed, the African continent, the President prayed God to rest Olaiya’s soul, and comfort all those who mourn him.
Commiserations have poured in from across the Nigerian entertainment world. Ebenezer Obey said, “Nigeria has lost one of the African fathers of highlife music. He has contributed his quota to the development of the entertainment industry and I pray his soul rests in peace and God comforts his family. Olaiya was a very serious-minded person who projected the highlife music throughout the entire world. He is indeed a man to emulate. He later diverted to do business and he was a successful businessman also,.”

Olaiya was born on New Years Eve, 1930 in Calabar, present-day Cross River State, where his parents, Yorubas from southwestern Nigeria, had settled. Moving to Lagos after finishing secondary school he found his musical calling as a trumpeter with various local bands. In 1952 he left Bobby Benson's famous highlife orchestra to establish his own Cool Cats Band, achieving such popularity that he was chosen to play at Nigeria's Independence celebrations in 1960. Olaiya's band, rechristened the All Stars, was the launching pad for Fela Ransome-Kuti, Victor Uwaifo and numerous other musicians over the years. Olaiya and the Cool Cats were also called up to perform for the Nigerian Army during the Congo Crisis of the Early '60s and the Biafran war of 1967-70.

As highlife music receded in western Nigeria during the '70s Olaiya persisted, notching numerous hit records like "Trumpet Highlife" and "Omele 'Dele," serving as president of the Musicians Union of Nigeria, building a thriving business importing musical instruments, and establishing the Stadium Hotel in Surulere, Lagos, home of his Papingo Davalaya nightclub.

Papingo Davalaya (Polydor POLP 156, 1986) may be the last album Victor Olaiya ever recorded. It is a worthy coda to a life well-lived. Enjoy!

Dr. Victor Olaiya - Tina Ma Te

Dr. Victor Olaiya - Papingo Davalaya

Dr. Victor Olaiya - Africa

Dr. Victor Olaiya - Oruku Tindi Tindi

Dr. Victor Olaiya - Gbemi Sola

Dr. Victor Olaiya - Aiye Ye Dun

Dr. Victor Olaiya - Akwa Mberi Nugo

Download Papingo Davalaya as a zipped file here.


4 comments:

Aduna said...

Hello,
Sad news.
Thanks for this disc.

Aduna

Issa said...

Thank you very much to preserve and share with us a part of these african musical monuments.
May Victor Abimbola Olaiya's soul rest in peace. His complete and successful life could be an example for many african musicians.
All the best to you and all the great work for this wonderful blog

moos said...

..my first post ever was with the good doctor,
always loved his music, thank you for this one..
rip Victor Olaiya

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