Victor Uwaifo (1941–2021)

Victor Efosa Uwaifo, an Edo-Bini indigene fondly called “guitar-boy” was a prolific musician, sculptor, lecturer, writer and an administrator par excellence. He was best known, for his foremost award winning gold disc (Joromi) of 1965.

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Musician, Writer, Sculptor, Administrator

Victor Efosa Uwaifo, an Edo-Bini indigene fondly called “guitar-boy” was a prolific musician, sculptor, lecturer, writer and an administrator par excellence. He was best known, for his foremost award winning gold disc (Joromi) of 1965.

Synopsis

Prof Sir (Dr) Victor Efosa Uwaifo MON PhD (1 March 1941 – 28 August 2021) was a Nigerian musician, writer, sculptor, and musical instrument inventor, university lecturer, music legend, and the first Honorable Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism in Nigeria. He was the winner of the first gold disc in Africa (Joromi) released in 1965 and seven other gold discs in Guitar boy, Arabade, Ekassa series and Akwete music. He recorded under the name “Sir Victor Uwaifo and His Titibitis”.

Parents, Birth and Early Life

Born on March 1st, 1941 in Benin City in the Old Western Nigeria, which metamorphosed into Mid-West state, Bendel State and now Edo State to predeceased parents (Princess Idusogie as mother and Wilfred Uwaifo as father). There are no details of who his siblings are. However, His parents might have probably died when he was in his formative years. The Edo born entertainer knack for music started in his early age; he played the guitar at age 12 thereabout.

Education

There are no details of the primary education, he attended in the Mid-west, Nigeria..

He attended the Western Boys’ High School Benin and St Gregory’s College, Lagos, from 1957 to 1961 for his secondary school education.

Later, He gained admission to study Graphics at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos (1961-1963) and graduated at age of 22 with a National Art Diploma (Distinction).

Desirous to give meaning to the career he cherished so much, Uwaifo proceeded to the University of Benin where he bagged his First Class in Fine and Applied Arts (1993-1995) and later got his Masters in Fine Arts (MFA) and majored in Sculpture, (1996-1997) respectively. His PhD was in Architectural Sculpture; the thesis for his PhD was entitled A reinvention of Benin Royal Ancestral Pieces, University of Benin, Nigeria. Victor Uwaifor was considered one of the most educated musicians in the world.

His Career Life

As earlier narrated, had taken an interest in music from when he was a child and was already playing the guitar at 12. He started his music career in Benin, Edo state.

After leaving Benin, Uwaifo continued playing music at St Gregory’s College, Lagos. He was a contemporary of Segun Bucknor, and they were both among the leading Lagos high school bandleaders at the time. During school holidays and weekends, he jammed with Olaiya’s All Stars band.

After completing secondary school studies, he played with E.C. Arinze’s highlife during late hours. Uwaifo also briefly worked with Stephen Osadebe and Fred Coker before he formed Melody Maestros in 1965. The band released “Joromi” which became a hit in Nigeria and other parts of West Africa.

Uwaifo made history in Nigeria when he won the first golden record in Nigeria, West Africa and Africa (presented by Philips, West Africa) for his song “Joromi” in 1966.

Between 1965 and 1968, he developed the Akwete rhythm sound. In 1969, he launched a new beat called Shadow accompanied by a new dance also called shadow, a mixture of Akwete and twist. The sound was released when soul music was popular in Lagos and lasted a few years. After the launch of Shadow, the Melody Maestros went on tour of various Nigerian cities.

Later, Uwaifo experimented with a new rhythm that was similar to soul, but soon left it for Ekassa, an interpretation of a traditional Benin sound.

The NTA

In addition, after his graduation at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, He later got an appointment at the Nigerian Television Service (NTS) now Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) where he was the Assistant Head of the Graphics department.

As A Lecturer

He was also a lecturer at the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Benin, Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria. Most notable, he was awarded a Professor by the University of Benin.

Hospitality Business

In 1971, Uwaifo opened the Joromi Hotel in Benin City, and within ten years established his own television studio. From there, he produced a national weekly music and culture programme.

Sir Victor Uwaifo was the Chairman of Joromi Organization, a multi-track recording and television studio in Benin City. He ran and managed an art gallery and the Revelation Tourist Pallazo.

Awards and Tour

  • Uwaifo, who had a total of 12 golden records to date, traveled to many countries, including the United States, Russia, Japan, United Kingdom, Bulgaria, Romania, Germany, France, Hungary, Rome, Ghana, Ivory Coast (Côte d’Ivoire), Togo, Benin Republic, Spain, and Canada.
  • The Federal Government of Nigeria, in appreciation of his talents and contributions to Nigeria, honoured him with a National Honors Merit Award in 1983, which read in part: ” … whereas you have been nominated and appointed as Member of the Order of the Niger to have and hold and enjoy the privileges of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of the said Order, MON.”
  • Uwaifo was the first professional musician in Nigeria to receive such an award.
  • Justice of the Peace, and had served in many capacities.
  • Appointed Justice of Peace (JP), Public Notary and Lay Magistrate, Victor Uwaifo was honored by four Nigerian Presidents. He was awarded the National Honors of Nigeria (MON). He was invited to the State House by four Presidents and heads of state of Nigeria.

Other Achievements

  • In 1995, Uwaifo was invited by the United Nations Staff Day International Committee to perform during the UN Golden Jubilee celebration. He was cited in the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 1983 edition, documented in the “Who’s Who in Nigeria”, “Who’s Who in Africa”, “Who’s Who in the Commonwealth”, and “Men and Women of Distinction in the Commonwealth” sections.
  • He was an Honorary Member of the Biographical Advisory Council, Cambridge, England; a member of both the Performing Right Society, and of the advisory board of American Heritage University, California, US. He was the first Nigerian to win a gold disc in Africa, (Joromi) released in 1965 at the age of 24 years old.

A Commissioner

Subsequently, under ex-Governor Lucky Igbinedion, he was also appointed the Honorable Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism and Member of the State Executive Council, the highest policymaking decision body in Edo State from 2001 to 2003.

Hobbies

Uwaifo’s hobbies included swimming, bodybuilding, gaming, reading and writing. He was a Christian and married with children.

As a Pacesetter

The gifted Ekassa, titibitti, Akwete Mutaba, Sasa Kosa-musician was very vocal in his attainments in life; he prides himself always as follows: The 1966 ‘Joromi’ gold disc award winner continued: I have conquered music, conquered arts and I have conquered tourism. I have conquered administration. Victor Uwaifo was a member of the State Executive Council (under ex-governor Lucky Igbinedion) and a Commissioner in Edo State, I have conquered academics; and as a university don. I have conquered entertainment, in music. There is nobody like that. I am an inventor and founder. There is nobody like that anywhere in the world.

It’s worthy to state herein, the late Sir Dr Victor Uwaifo used his talent in music to promote the Bini culture to the world; there is no contest for that.

View of Today’s Music/Artist

Before his demise, he was disappointed with the state of the industry, he expressed the following:

The missing link, he noted, is that they are not groomed in real music, most of them have not been to any school of music adding: computer has ruined them. Again, he lamented that poorly co-ordinated music had caused more havoc than the enjoyment. Music malpractice is just like examination malpractice, he said.

Uwaifo added: The problem is that when they want to play music, computer will arrange it for them. They are not the ones who actually played the music, and that is mediocrity.

The legend provided the way out of the mess in the entertainment and music industry, saying: Nigerians should be original. They should not encourage mediocrity and forget about cut and paste. They should learn to play musical instruments; and then have role models.

He added that budding artistes should work assiduously. They should have a sense of purpose and not run after money. If they really love the art, they should develop the art in them and then money will compensate them.

Faith and Family

Until his death, he was a Christian and was married to Princess Osaretin Uwaifo; their union was blessed children.

His Death

Victor Efosa Uwaifo died on 28 August 2021 at the age of 80 due to pneumonia and not covid-19 complications as wrongly portrayed in the media.

He will be remembered for his unbeatable charisma and the strength to give his best with the flute, piano and saxophone.

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Abalijay
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