By Victor Akande
There is no doubt that the music of late Dr. Victor Olaiya have outlived him. He was a man of several Highlife classics, and he got a rousing feedback in his lifetime. A 2013 duet with pop icon, Innocent Idibia, aka 2Baba was one of the indications that his music transverse generations. The collabo, a remix of his mega hit ‘Baby mi da’ was one of Idibia’s pet projects, whose video was also directed by another young creative; the award-winning filmmaker Kunle Afolayan. With these ones, and many other baton grabbers, the music marathon for Olaiya continues, and so is the legend in our memory.
Memories of some fun moments with the music icon continue to pour in. there was a night of mini concert called Naijazz Label, an initiative of Inspiro Productions which once put the Highlife maestro in the spotlight. Several young talents sang for the old man who took to the dance floor. The organisers said their aim was to nurture burgeoning music talents in Highlife and other traditional genres. This was in August 2013. Taking turns, the young artistes sang, drummed and performed different types of instruments to the pleasure of the old man who continued to nod with satisfaction. Olaiya was particularly glad when one of the artistes said Highlife music was made compulsory when he was in music school. The guy noted that they were made to understudy two legends; Osita Osadebe and the great Dr. Victor Olaiya. The crowd cheered as they celebrant rose in appreciation of the remarks.
“Celebrating a Victor and his trumpet at 60” was another remarkable event. On that occasion, the Banquet wing of Lagos City Hall witnessed an unusual gathering, as businessmen, politicians, artistes and socialites converged to honour the Highlife giant who celebrated his 60th year as a performing musician.
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The show was put together by popular music promoter Femi Esho through his Evergreen Music outfit, to rejuvenate a genre which many believed was thinning out. Olaiya stood tall in the spotlight on that Sunday night in September 2012, four months after show promoter, Otunba Ayodeji Osibogun of WTS Broadcast featured Evangelist Ebenezer Obey-Fabiyi and Chief Sunday Adegeye Adeyeye, alias King Sunny Ade in a similarly reawakening, this time, of Juju music.
It was a night of spectacular performances. Olaiya’s children; Bayode, Toba, Dupe, Iyejide, Bidemi, and Biodun, backed by his All Stars Band, performed some of his hit songs. Late Fatai Rolling Dollar, who took his turn to thrill the audience was joined by the ‘ageless’ King Sunny Ade in a jamming session that left the audience asking for more. It was the second time that KSA was mounting the stage at the show. His unique dance steps added verve to the event.
If there was a prize for the best dancer at the occasion, Yeni Kuti could have gone home with the trophy. Not even the erotic dancers on Orlando Julius’ band stimulated the audience as much as Femi Kuti’s elder sister did. All through, the Femi Esho’s Evergreen Band was on hand to back every other performer at the event. All this was for the late Victor Olaiya, and when it was the turn of the celebrant, the excitement hit the roof.
Olaiya, 81, was in his element; bringing back memories of his cherished performances in the 60s and 70s. Brandishing a white handkerchief and twisting dramatically to the combined melody from his trumpet and the All Stars Band, Olaiya thrilled the audience with renditions from his hit songs, rendering long blasting effect with his trumpet, which sent the crowd into frenzy. The enthusiasm could be described as total. The heartening crowd danced and sang along, as he dished out popular hits; ‘Kosowo Lode’, ‘Adogan’, and ‘Cherry Koko’ among others. Displaying unusual energy for a man of his age, Olaiya harmonised lyrics, poetry, and rhythm in a unique performance that brought everybody to the dance floor. Evident of a well-rehearsed event, the cord progression was faultless and so was the originality of the beats, a far cry from the present-day computer-generated sounds.
To underscore how well loved Olaiya was, across different strata of society was to recall some of the dignitaries at the event. There was former governors Segun Osoba (Ogun) and Segun Agagu (Ondo), Oba Rilwan Akinolu, Erelu Abiola Dosumu, the then Ekiti State Deputy Governor Mrs. Funmi Olayinka, wives of then Lagos State Governor, Dame Abimbola Fashola, her Ekiti State counterpart, Erelu Bisi Fayemi and former Senator Florence Ita Giwa.
Other important personalities at the show were Afro Beat star Femi Kuti, his sister, Yeni Kuti, Dele Ojo, Orlando Julius and wife, Latoya, Theo Lawson, Shina Bakare, Laolu Akins, Beautiful Nubia, Chief Rashid Gbadamosi (OFR), Dr. Yemi Ogunbiyi, Senator Ben Ndi Obi, Prince (ENGR.) Yemisi Shylon, Prof. Adebayo Williams, Lagos state Commissioner for Environment at the time, Tunji Bello, his counterpart on Tourism, Disu Holloway and the event anchorman, Yemi Shodimu among others.
Highlight of the event was the public presentation of the artiste’s 75 hit songs called the ‘Heritage Compendium’. The compendium was a compilation of his works in 60 years. Dr. Olaiya autographed just a copy, which was eventually bought at N150, 000 (One Hundred and Fifty Thousand naira) by the Ekiti state government following an auction which was contested closely by Lagos state.
These memories are overwhelming evidence of a man who will continue to live with us.