Thursday, 01 December, 2022


Victor’s Vocals



There is a nostalgic twist to the tale I tell today. It is wrapped in the fold of my childhood memories.
The city where this story is set is one I recall with bursts of bliss. That city of priceless relics and historical monuments. A city called ancient, but which is as modern as those that preceded it and those that followed its trail of greatness.
From the hallways of my childhood recollections, I pull out a scenario that still thrills me with its notability. A scenario created in the museum situated in this historic city. The shape of the museum, like two brownish giant oil tanks, placed side by side, surrounded by silence, yet brimming with classic artifacts, are situated at the centre of the city, in a place called Ring Road.
In awe, we marched in, the company of people who went on tour to one of the city’s monuments. The inside smelt of history, of revived hopes and a search for lost treasures.
The array of priceless carvings confronted our curious gazes. We saw them, those figurines, some that looked scary, like sceptres from a Christopher Lee TV classic or the armchair thrillers of yesteryears.
The curator told us of many more of those artifacts, scattered abroad in other parts of the world, adorning museums and telling in real terms, the tale of the colonisation of the historic city I write about.
The Benin Kingdom; tagged the ancient city of Benin. From the curator, the silent company of curious minds, heard the tale of the conquest of the kingdom and the removal of the priceless treasures.
I sought to know more about them – the lost treasures of Benin Kingdom and did research into a city where I built many of my childhood memories.
One research led me to watch a film titled Invasion 1897, subtitled The Deposition of the Last King of Africa, produced by Lancelot Imaseun, a citizen of Benin city, who told in pictorial form, the vandalism of the city’s prized possessions.
These memories roll through my mind, as I write this piece in celebration of one of the sons of the soil.
A man whose accolades have placed the ancient city on the map of the world. From this city of historic treasures, there arose a man whose vocal ability and mastery of musical instruments made the Benin Kingdom take pride of place on the map of Nigeria.
I write about Sir Victor Uwaifo, this son of the soil, with a pen reeling with nostalgia.
I hear the tunes from his treasure house of award¬-winning lyrics.
I think of the first time I encountered him. At church, while I sat cosy with family members, watching with eyes still alert with curiosity from the museum tour, as he arrived with his wife, to honour his little brother, a member of the church, who was celebrating a landmark birthday.
I race down memory lane, to peep into his biography. I see the life of a man who started from humble beginnings in his native land of Benin City, rising to occupy the world’s stage, crooning songs that delighted the human ears.
I read of his educational pursuits, first at Western Boys High School, Benin City, ranked alongside Edo College, Hussey College, Immaculate Conception College, in those days when the boys cast eyes of affection on the girls of Idia College, Saint Maria Gorreti College, Federal Government Girls College, my own alma mater, and their counterparts.
I heard the stories of his near-obsessive love for music, intertwined with his dexterity at playing the guitar, a musical instrument he started playing at the age of twelve.
I found out about how his love for art took him to Yaba College of Technology, where he studied graphics.
His remarkable educational feat did not escape my knowledge. Victor Uwaifo, at age 54, when many would have said it was too late to learn, received a bachelor’s degree in music, emerging with first class honours and at 56, followed it up with a master’s degree in fine and applied art, majoring in sculpture, from the University of Benin, still connected to the land of his birth.
Victor Uwaifo’s tales still interest my curious mind and I read of his musical company, with Segun Bucknor, Victor Olaiya, Stephen Osadebe and Fred Coker, where he learned from the music giants and later set out on his own, creating the Melody Maestros Band.
I found out about the creation of Joromi, a hit track, which ruled the air waves and gave him the privilege of holding the first golden record in Nigeria.
Joromi, a song which is as unforgettable as its crooner, won an award as an evergreen song at one of PMAN’s award nights.
The song still is unforgettable, for many who hear about Sir Victor Uwaifo think of the song, before they remember any of his other hit tracks.
Joromi Hotel, a hotel he established in Benin City, stands as a monument, perhaps a physical reminder of the hit track.
I heard also about his formation of the akwete rhythm sound, a tune that characterises his vocals and set his music apart, as the work of a skilled artiste. This mega musician established a television studio, recording studio and art gallery.
It would have been a sacrilege of some sorts if these achievements did not earn him recognition. Invited to the state house by four Nigerian presidents and four heads of state, the first professional musician to be honoured with the prestigious Member of the Order of the Niger, appointed Justice of the Peace, Public Notary and Lay Magistrate, Sir Victor’s trail of accomplishments grew larger.
I was delighted to learn that Sir Victor’s accomplishments went beyond the shores of his home country. He performed as a musician at the United Nations Golden Jubilee Celebration, was cited in the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, documented in Who’s Who in Nigeria, Who’s Who in Africa, Who’s Who in the Commonwealth, Men and Women of Distinctions in the Commonwealth, made member of the Performing Right Society and was on the advisory board of American Heritage University, California.
Pride decorates my countenance when I think of his contributions to his immediate environment, offering his services as a lecturer in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Benin.
I glow with pride for I am a product of that great institution that has given the world many of its finest minds.
This musician of repute whose dexterity with the guitar, gave him the title of Guitar Boy, has twelve golden records to his name.
I see a man whose very essence is drenched in musical notes.
I admire a minstrel whose vocals have lingered on the lips of many.
I salute a multi-talented musician, writer, sculptor, musical instrument inventor, music legend, university lecturer and the first Honourable Commissioner for Arts, Culture and Tourism in Nigeria.
I watched with a feeling comparable to awe, his performance with his legendary guitar, on 1st March 2021, during his 80th birthday event.
I saw a man who, at the age of eight decades, could still wield his instrument of craft with such undisputable skill and fresh fire burned in me. A desire to employ my writing pen, till the end of my days.
I heard the citations read about this skilful minstrel.
I listened to his vocals that teased the senses with their familiarity.
I marvelled at such strength, which made younger performers desirous to take refresher courses on stage presence.
I went away with one great lesson – the wisdom of focus, which makes the successful ones stick to their pursuits, till they reap the fruits.
I shed the tears of one bereaved, when his death was announced as breaking news, days ago, on 28th August 2021.
I thought about his giant strides; those who have thrived under his tutelage; many who are inspired by his success story and have dared to keep their dreams alive.
I thought of the city of unforgettable artifacts, now nursing broken hearts, for the loss of an illustrious son.
I mused on my connection to that city, where I spun memorable memories of my childhood years, and conceived this tribute to honour a man whose vocals will no more arise from his lips to soothe human hearts.
I write this eulogy to celebrate an entertainer per excellence, whose vocals cast a radiance of entertainment on the Nigerian and global scene.
Victor’s Vocals will still be sung, pouring from the lips of those who cherished his musical tunes.
Sir Victor Uwaifo’s footsteps have faded from this side of creation, but the vocals he voiced will still have a place in the world.

© Ify Omeni – The Tale Weaver

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