Nigeria’s music industry has lost an icon. A visionary. An enigma. Sir Victor Olaiya, a legendary highlife musician and iconic trumpeter, took his last breath – after a brief illness – at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) on Wednesday, February 12. He was 89.
Since the news of his death broke, eulogies have not stopped pouring in for Olaiya from the length and breadth of the country. Singer Innocent ‘2Baba’ Idibia, who had the honour of making a remix of one of Olaiya’s many hit songs, Baby Jowo in 2013, is one of many who have described his death as devastating.
King Wasiu Ayinde Marshal (KWAM 1) has also defined Olaiya’s passing as “a profound loss to the Yoruba race and global music industry.”
A Man With Vision
Olaiya’s foresight and impact in the music industry can’t be overstated. It is that foresight and passion for his craft that spurred him into building the Stadium Hotel in Surulere, a sprawling Lagos suburb, in the 70’s. The vision to keep highlife music alive was one that aligned with many of his contemporaries like Bobby Benson, Nico Mbarga, and Victor Uwaifo who also built choice hotels in various cities across Nigeria.
At the Stadium Hotel, the All Stars Band ably led by Olaiya and other less popular bands served Lagos residents from all walks of life, well-tuned highlife and funk every Saturday night. For lovers of highlife music who visited the spot frequently, the music and ambience was too good to be enjoyed alone, so they attended in numbers – with friends and associates.
Victor Olaiya dazzled lovers of the genre who visited the Stadium Hotel for over 50 years, until old age and illness forced him into involuntary retirement. Today, it is probably the only place in all of the city that has live music in this dying genre.
When NET visited the place on Thursday (today), a number of people gathered in groups speaking in hushed tones on the street, but inside the palatial space, the quiet and sombre ambience was overwhelming. Only a drum set and empty tables occupied the otherwise lively arena.
The All Stars band manager, Gbenga Adewusi tells us the band still plays regularly at the serene spot, with one of Olaiya’s sons, Bayode Olaiya, leading the band and carrying on his father’s legacy.
A Selfless Leader
Through the Stadium Hotel, Sir Victor Olaiya has touched and changed lives in more ways than one. Adewusi proudly tells NET Olaiya never treated his staff any different from his family.
“Dr Olaiya is my dad. I take him as my dad and he took me as his son. It’ll be difficult for me not to see him again. He doesn’t even make me miss my family. All I’ve become today is because of Olaiya,” a sombre and visibly sad Adewusi says, before going on to recall the many selfless acts the late highlife singer made in his illustrious life.
“It was at his place I got married and had my children. I got my life together,” he adds.
Sir Victor Olaiya has left the world, but his Stadium Hotel still stands tall and open to performances by various highlife bands and lovers of the genre.
Adewusi says the show must go on, as that is what Olaiya would have wanted. He says come Saturday, the arena will once again be open for a night of gyration by lovers of highlife music across the city – in what will be a celebration of Sir Victor Abimbola Olaiya’s life and legacy.
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