Great lyricist Victor Uwaifo, ‘Guitar Boy,’ dies at 80
• President Buhari Condoles Family, Music Industry
Music meastro, sculptor, and philosopher, Prof. Victor Efosa Uwaifo has passed on at the age of 80. Though details of his death were sketchy as at press time, the music icon, whose tracks ‘Joromi’ and ‘Mammy Water’ were hits till his demise, was a multi-instrumentalist, great lyricist, melody maker, and a renowned virtual artist.
One of his children, Uwaifo Peter de Rock, had broken the news of the demise of the Professor of Visual Arts, University of Benin (UNIBEN) on his Facebook page on Saturday evening.
While Peter did not disclose the cause of the death of his father, he waxed elegy at the passing of the music star.
“Daddy, Why did you leave us now. Prof. Sir Victor Uwaifo has gone to rest. Black Saturday for me now,” the young Uwaifo wrote with 34 sad emojis. “One week now after collaborating with me,” the distraught Peter added.
The Guardian, however, gathered that the celebrated musician-turned-university teacher and former Edo State Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism died yesterday in the course of a brief illness.
In a condolence message, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed sadness over the death of the musician and condoled with family, friends and associates of the multi-talented artiste.
In a statement by his media aide, Femi Adesina, he joined the Nigerian music industry and performing artistes, home and abroad, in mourning the former first Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism in Edo State, who was also the first musician and instrumentalist to be given National Merit Honours, Member of the Order of the Niger (MON) in 1983.
“President Buhari believes the renowned musician, with global appeal and recognitions, lived for many firsts, which include invitation to the State House by four presidents and Heads of State, and winner of a gold disc in Africa for his song, “Joromi’’, released in 1965 at the age of 24.
“The President notes the glory that Sir Uwaifo brought to Nigeria through his international tours, and the active role he played in national development, returning to school to get a first degree at age 54 with first class honours, masters degree at 56, and a doctorate at 77. He prayed for his soul, saying the country, particularly the music industry, will sorely miss him,” the statement read in part.
Reacting to the news of Uwaifo’s transition, singer and preacher, Righteousman Erhabor told The Guardian, that the great lyricist would be remembered for his immense contribution to development of arts and entertainment in Nigeria.
He said, “Though he is aged as he was 80 in March this year, no one prays for the death of a loved one no matter the age. Sir Victor Uwaifo will be greatly remembered. He influenced and inspired a number of us in the industry. He is not just a Benin man, his music cuts across the country with large following fan base.
“It is hoped that his children will carry on his legacies, especially in music and creative art. Those of us in his immediate constituency, entertainment, should also do something about his legacy. He was a legend and should be honoured as such.”
Uwaifo joined the Octogenarian club earlier this year on March 1, 2021.
A man of many parts and one of the finest music legends to have lived, Uwaifo put inexplicable energy and dedication into his works and rode his way to stardom and greatness. He was a recipient of several national and international awards. He was the winner of the first gold disc in Africa with Joromi, which was released in 1965. He went on to win seven other gold discs with Guitar boy, Arabade, Ekassa series and Akwete music.
In 1997, he was awarded the Certificate of Honor by the House of Representatives, Boston Massachusetts. He is documented in the Groove Dictionary of Music and Musicians Vol. 8, and also documented in the Men and Women of Distinction in the Commonwealth, 1983.
Born on March 1, 1941, Uwaifo was recognised as the most educated performing music legend, musical instrument inventor and artiste worldwide with a B.A Honors (first class valedictorian), Masters degree and Ph.D in Architectural Sculpture from the University of Benin, Nigeria.
The artiste, while taking journalists on a voyage of his career during the National Festival of Arts and Culture hosted in Benin in 2019, had declared his band as the highest paying because of his commitment to musicianship.
Reminiscing on his sojourn in music, the ‘guitar boy’ as he was fondly called, in an interview with The Guardian on the occasion of his 80th birthday, said, “Music runs in the blood and my family; my father had a gramophone. I made my first guitar at the age of 12. I used trap ropes for the strings, a sardine opener for the pegs, and spokes for the belts.”
“I managed to produce some sound and I did it my own way until I tried it with some downtown guitarist – the palm wine bar. When I played my guitar, they couldn’t play their own too; there was a variance. Their own was conventional, a kind of training, while mine was only my own way, my own style. Only I can play it.”
The late Sir Uwaifo started his education at the Holy Cross Primary School, proceeded to the Benin Baptist Primary School, Benin City; the Western Boys High School, Benin city and St. Gregory’s College, Lagos before proceeding to the Yaba College of Technology where he obtained the National Diploma in Graphics with distinction.
To expand the frontiers of his knowledge, he moved to the University of Benin (UNIBEN) where he obtained a First Class Degree in Applied Arts, a Master’s Degree in Sculpture and a Doctor of Philosophy in Architectural Sculpture, thereby setting a new record as the most educated performing music legend in the world, a feat he was very proud of in his lifetime. He was also an inventor with a Ph.D in Architectural Sculpture.
Until his demise, Uwaifo held various positions at different times and made formidable contributions at both the state and national level. He shaped the culture and ethos of highlife music. He created the Akwete music, which placed the Nigerian music on the world map. He popularised the Edo and the Nigerian culture worldwide.
He founded the Victor Revelation Tourist Palazzo, which stands out today as key to historical events across the world. Sir Uwaifo was dynamic and versatile in terms of voice, sound, matrixes, rhythm, performance, compositional techniques and musical instruments. He stood out as a pioneer of kinetic exploration in the field of sculpture, and a pathfinder and trailblazer through his unequalled versatility.
Uwaifo invented the revolving magic guitar, a feat yet to be equaled. He propounded the theory of music colours and transposition of colours into sound and vice versa, thereby setting standards on several fields that will be difficult to beat even in death.
He was recognised by the United Nations, commissioned by the Nigerian Government to many international festivals and was listed in Men and Women of Distinction in the Common Wealth of Nations.
A member of the Order of the Niger (MON), an elder statesman, Justice of the Peace (JP) and a man of the people, he commissioned many projects, which constituted tourist attractions in various parts of the country such as Cenotaph in Makurdi, Benue State; the Cenotaph in Maiduguri, Borno State; the Unknown Soldier Cenotaph in Abeokuta, Ogun State; the Giant Eagle Sculpture at the Eleganza Plaza in Apapa, Lagos State, to mention but a few.
Uwaifo was a visiting Professor of American Heritage University, and the first Nigerian Professional Musician of international repute. He was a sportsman, a fine artist, a sculptor, a technologist, a multi-instrumentalist, an innovator, a prolific writer, and an academician. His residence known as the Superstar Highgate on 4-12 Victor Uwaifo Avenue, Ekewan/College Road Benin City will be a beehive of activities following the news of this death.
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