Dr Victor Abimbola Olaiya, one of the pioneers of the Nigerian highlife, has retired from his six-decade career in music.
He reportedly made this decision due to his failing health and doctor’s instruction to desist from performances. The highlife legend had missed the weekly performance at the Stadium Hotel, Iyun Street, Surulere, Lagos, for a year. And his manager, Gbenga Adewusi, said, “Aside from attending his gigs, he no longer comes to work regularly as a result of age-related health issues.”
Victor Olaiya remains one of Nigeria’s brightest musical stars, with a career that included performing at the state ball during Nigeria’s independence in 1960, in the presence of Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir James Robertson, the governor general and representative of the Queen, among other dignitarieses. He also performed at the state ball three years later when Nigeria became a republic.
In 2013, he featured 2Baba in a remix of his song Baby Jowo, bookending a career that has influenced many of today’s Nigerian sounds including the revered Afro beat.
Speaking about highlife and its impact in an interview with the Vanguard in 2014, Victor Olaiya said, "High life has a great future, because for it I live, for it I shall die. There is no gain saying everybody wants to talk about high life. High-life is the lingua franca of this nation. Fuji, Fuji reggae, afro beat, juju, all of them had to borrow a leaf or two from high-life to enable them to stand. So it still remains the lingua franca of this nation and no type of music can threaten the existence of high life music."
Olaiya's music was influenced by the horns and harmonies of James Brown. And, over the course of his career, he released an album with the E T Mensah, shared a stage with Louis Armstrong, and impacted the styles of Fela Kuti and Tony Allen.