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SIR VICTOR UWAIFO: A BIOGRAPHY

 At a very tender age the talent was already manifesting for the world to see. There was no doubt in the minds of those who came in contact with the young boy who thrilled his peers with his deep knowledge of the art was destined for the top

With no assistance from elders around, the young lass who was soon to dazzle the musical world, started out making toys with the bamboo sticks and effectively employing same to draw on sand, slates and any paper he could lay hands on.

He also showed equal enthusiasm in music, folktale and art hence the training as a scholar at the Yaba College of Technology where he graduated as best student in 1962.

Victor Uwaifo, the young graduate, worked briefly in Nigerian Advertising Publicity (NAP) before joining the NTV(now NTA) Channel 10 in 1964.

When he took the music scene with the monster hit single Jolomi, he knew his days as civil servant were numbered.

After receiving Gold Disc, the first ever won by an African for high records sells, Victor Uwaifo resigned his appointment with the NTV in 1964 to full time in music entertainment.

After conquering the music world, he enrolled at the University of Benin where he bagged first class in sculptor. He soon followed this modest achievement with a mastersí degree in 1996.

With virtually every possible awards that included an M.O.N in the kitty, the stage was now set for Uwaifoís elevation into the council of the chosen few.

In the year 2000, his appointment as Commissioner for Arts Culture and Tourism accomplished just that.

After three years in the office, Victor Uwaifo is back to what he knows best, show business. He spoke to Showtime on his tenure in office. He also revealed plan to stage his first ever solo art exihibtition since1985 at the Nimbus Art Gallery in Lagos. We begin this interview by wanting to know why he decided on an exihibition instead of a new musical album. This was his answer.

I want to show to the outside world my other side, those things that made a first class honours holder of the University of Benin.

The world needs to see evidences of what gave me my degrees.They need to know that I did not acquire Toronto certificates.

Gift of art, a family thing

Before me was my late brother, a chief magistrate who was a church organist. His name was George. My elder brother, a judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Sampson Uwaifo is an accomplished composer and writer. When we were growing, we had a family band called Uwaifo Family Quartet and I being the youngest played the guitar. In those days, NBC (now NTA) Ibadan, will come to Benin to record us for their programme. Late Emmanuel Fadaka as a matter of fact, was the producer who led the team. Another interesting thing about my family is the story of another late brother of mine, called Clement a.k.a.Clemico.

He was very popular in Edo State and was a contemporary of Rex Lawson. He recorded several hit songs, but quit music according to him, because Iíd become more popular than he was. He said it was becoming embarrassing to go to some places to play, only to be told he was not the Uwaifo they wanted. It became a problem for him especially during the war, when soldiers will reject him at the war front, where heíd gone to entertain.

Another brother of mine, Christopher played most of the saxophone solos, in my first years. He also played with Fela.

And in my immediate family, any of my children that cannot play one or two instrument is not mine. They all play at least one kind of instrument. Right now, most of them are living outside the country pursuing other courses outside music.

Genius are born not made

Since I donít believe that a genius ever has a successor, I donít expect any of my children to succeed me. Letís compare notes, Shakespeare, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, John Stevensons, did anyone ever succeed them?. And back home, has Ghana or Africa ever found another Nkrumah?. I am a rare specie, and itís very unlikely that anyone will ever succeed me. If that happens, then I do not rate a genius.

I am not bothered by this. Even if I get a successor musically what about other fields where I also excelled? I am a l writer, publisher, philosopher, a scientist, a painter, sculptor and a musician that plays several musical instruments. I remain the only musician today who invented a double necked guitar, designed and built his own car. And above all these, Iím still alive. Iím yet to see anyone capable of succeeding me.

No loss, no gain.

As a commissioner serving under Governor Lucky Igbinedion, I had time for my painting, sculptor and song writings.

When Iím not at work, I put new ideas that come down in writing or I go down and develop this inspiration in either the art gallery or studio that I have in my home.

And during the weekends, I go to the gallery, lay my hands on clay and work on different medium. Soon after, the regime ended its first regime. I had more time to work on those things that were dear to my heart that I couldnít express while in the office.

Works of art

The works I have done as an artist is more than the number of albums I ever released. You see this other side of me (art) has been eaten up by my other side (music). The works I have done could be found in Maiduguri, Port Harcourt, Yola, Markudi, Lagos, Abeokuta, name them.

The cenotaph of the unknown soldier in Maiduguri, Yola, Maikurdi, Isaac Boro Park, Port Harcourt and Abeokuta are some of my commissioned works. So apart from what Iím exhibiting today, youíll also have the opportunity to understand and know me in retrospect, of those things I have done that were not public knowledge. How many people in Lagos know that the giant eagle standing at Eleganza Plaza, Wharf Apapa is one of my works?

Beyond these, my works are also found in several churches. As a Christian of the Catholic faith, I have been contracted by some of the Catholic churches to capture the real picture (sculptor) of what the priests have in mind.

50-50 love

Every work of mine is challenging. There isnít any one that one would say was more challenging. If I decide one of my songs is my favourite, then there will be no need to go back to the studio to do anything. You see every work is challenging because they give you different sensibilities, satisfaction and spur you to different hight.

Above all, I love all my sculptored works equally.

Each time I do a job and I see it come alive, itís like giving birth to a new creature. Itís like something waiting all the time and begging for a chance to live. You feel a deep kind of satisfaction.

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