On 29th of August, the Nigerian entertainment industry lost one of the legends and pioneers of highlife music in the country, Sir Victor Uwaifo to the cold arms of death at the age of 80.
Born in Benin on March 1, 1941, Uwaifo was one of the foremost highlife musicians in Nigeria. He was a trained sculptor, philosopher, poet and musical instrument inventor. His classic release, ‘Joromi’, was released in 1965, and it won for Nigeria, the first Gold Disc Record ever to come out of the continent of Africa.
Uwaifo is the first Benin man to receive the Nigerian National Honours; Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) in 1983, for his contributions to creativity and industry.
Uwaifo obtained his secondary school education at the Western Boys’ High School Benin and St Gregory’s College, Lagos, from 1957 to 1961. He went further to study graphics at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos State and graduated in 1961–63 at the age of 22 years old. He received a bachelor’s degree with first-class honours at 54 years old (Valedictorian) and a master’s degree from the University of Benin in 1997 at 56 where he studied Fine and Applied Arts and majored in Sculpture.
He began playing guitar when he was 12 years old, his earliest popular music influences being records of Spanish and Latin American music. After leaving Benin, Uwaifo continued playing music at St Gregory’s, Lagos.
He was appointed and sworn-in as Justice of the Peace (JP) 1990. He is also the first and foremost Honourable Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism in Nigeria (Edo State), former lecturer in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Benin. He was honoured with an award in 2018 by the Association of Nigerian Musicologists for his outstanding music performance and leadership.
In spite his advancement in age, Uwaifo stood out intellectually sound in mind and body as the most educated performing music icon in the world and the most read contemporary and remained relevant up till his death with over 50 years on state both local and international.
He has over 600 songs and 100 records to his credit with 8 gold and 2 silver awards. Each record is music of serious research and philosophical work equivalent to academic journal. He is a member of the Performing Rights Society of London (PRS), a trustee of Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria (PMAN) and Copyright Society of Nigeria (COSON). In 2016, Victor Uwaifo was inducted into the Grammy Award Museum in Los Angelis, USA. He has inspired generations of musicians in Nigeria and beyond.
Unlike Mark Anthony’s comment in Shakespeare’s book Julius Caesar, “the evil that men do, lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones”, the good works of Sir Victor Uwaifo would definitely live for many generations and would serves as point of reference and study for the upcoming generation in the world of arts, music and entertainment.
The life time of the legend is worth of emulation. Music should not only be for entertainment but as means of inculcating human values for descent society.