By Peterson Ibi/Benin
Legendary highlife musician and culture enthusiast, Victor Uwaifo is dead.
The ‘Guitar boy’, who celebrated his 80th birthday in March, was said to have died after a brief illness.
Uwaifo, the first professional musician to be awarded with the National Merit Honours of Member of the Order of the Niger (MON),was also the first Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism in Nigeria.
Born in Benin, Edo State, Nigeria in 1941, the music writer, sculptor, musical instrument inventors and nd former wrestler was known for his noble joromi musical style.
Uwaifo learned his skills from watching ET Mensah guitarist Dizzy Acquaye. After working in Victor Olaiya’s band for a time, he perfected his voice in the 1960s using Pidgin and Edo dialects, traditional palm wine styles and ekassa and gbadagbada, and it became incredible music with its own power.
Sir. Victor UWAIFO
His single, “Joromi” became popular in 1969 and sold over 100,000 copies. Uwaifo made a large number of records throughout the 1970s and released more than 100 singles with his band, Melody Maestros and Titibitis. More than 50 of his former band members would go ahead to have careers of their own.
The singer, guitarist, and bandleader Uwaifo became one of Nigeria’s most individual artists in the mid-1960s. His style is based on, but not limited to, highlife in Ghana and the West.
Like his Nigerian partner Fela Kuti, he too made extensive recordings in pidgin, allowing him to transcend language and tribal barriers and develop audiences in all English-speaking regions of the world.
He came to Lagos, the Nigerian capital, to complete his secondary education in 1958. Before joining Victor Olaiya’s All-Star Band part-time, he led several school bands.
In 1962, while studying at Yaba College of Technology, he joined EC Arinze’s band. After completing his studies, he worked as an engineer at the Nigerian Tlevision Authority and in 1965 he saved enough money to buy musical instruments and amplifiers to form his first band, Melody Maestros, consisting of 15 musicians (the later line-up included the young Sonny Okosun).
The Melody Maestros signed with Phonogram West Africa in 1966 and won three hit singles in the same year: “Sirri Sirri”, “Guitar Boy” and “Joromi”. The latter is sold not only in Nigeria but also in all regions of England. speaking of West Africa. Based on the story of a legendary hero in Benin, “Qiao Luomi” was so popular that it won the first gold record award in Africa in 1969.
Later that year, Uwaifo and the melody master became one of the Nigerian representatives at the Black Arts Festival. And from there they continue to tour the United States and Japan.
These trips were followed by visits to the Soviet Union and Europe. In 1971, Uwaifo opened the Hotel Joromi in Benin City, and 10 years later he established his own television studio, where he produced weekly musical and cultural programs, which were broadcast throughout Nigeria.