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Sir Victor Uwaifo – Computer Is Killing Musical Talents

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In an Interviews with Saturday Vanguard – Sir Victor

By Olanrewaju

Sir Victor Uwaifo is a house hold name
when it comes to Nigerian music. He is
a writer, sculptor, and musical
instrument inventor. His evergreen
songs include “Joromi” “Guitar Boy” and
“Mummy Water” which made waves in
the late 60s and 70s. The multi-talented
music maestro has the ability to play
Xylophone, Sax, Clarinet, Piano, Guitar,
Bass Guitar and many other musical
instruments. He is a Professor of Arts at
the University of Benin.

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In this interview with Saturday Vanguard,
the 76 years-old music legend reveals
plans to launch his new album next
month, just as he reviewed the kind of
music being played by the younger
generation, regretting that the use of
computers in productions these days is
killing musical talents.
Excerpts:

Sir, can you tell us a little about your
background

Well, I was born in Benin City when
there were very few cars about three
or four cars. The first belonged to
the Oba of Benin, the second was
owned by Omo-Osagie while the third
and forth belonged to Obaseki. There
were other big vehicles carrying
timber as well. I was brought up in a
strict disciplinary environment as my
father was a disciplinarian. My
mother was from the Idusogie Royal
family, while my father also was a
councillor to the Oba. In those days
when we were small, the streets were
virtually free, we used to run from
Lagos street to Ring road and it was
the centre of the town where there
was a field. I remember in 1951,
there was a match that took place in
Benin, one Rev Fr Carl was the goal
keeper and the only goal that was
scored that made Benin to win the
match was scored by Perry Idahosa,
the father of Justice Cromwell
Idahosa. The atmosphere was cordial
and the environment was clean.
Then, we had sanitary inspectors
who inspected the streets, compound
and quarters as well. There were few
points where we had public taps.
There were no problems, our people
swept and it was not a case of a
monthly sanitation, it was daily and
the Binis used to polish their houses
with snail shell which looks brown
as if it was painted. So this was the
environment in which I grew up.

But I found out that I became
interested in arts as a growing child.
I used to construct aeroplanes, cars
with bamboo sticks and fly kite.
There was a time I did an air craft
and during the wind storm it flew and
a white man who was passing by our
street saw it and gave me one
pound. So I had the potential and
love for it. In music we had a
gramophone record, my father used
to play gramophone and if you had it
you were a wealthy man then. So I
grew up under that atmosphere and
the gramophone record was mostly
Latin American, Spanish songs, Jazz
but the one that really touched my
heart was the Latin American and the
Spanish. Whenever I heard the guitar
and strings, it touched my soul, it
was always ringing in my head and I
thought I should be able to get one.
So I made one for myself with ply
woods, bicycle spokes and strap
strings and used cock-bottle as the
tuning buttons. After a year or two I
found a way to make money so that I
could buy the real guitar. My parents
were very sad that I had to do a
menial job somewhere along the
street to make money but I bought
the guitar.

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I was playing my first Spanish guitar
and was using it my own way but
when I took it to the palm wine bar
where guitar was played, great
guitarists in their own class couldn’t
play mine because I turned it to my
own taste and I couldn’t play theirs.

But I discovered that theirs was a
conventional guitar, that was how I
worked to buy the conventional
guitar. So I started going there and I
would buy them a jug of palm wine
so that they could teach me their
own guitar and I did my rudiment,
first in Spanish and then palm wine
style. That is why today I can play
the guitar in different form from Palm
wine to high life to Jazz to Classical
and handle any type of guitar. I now
invent guitar. The latest one is the
revolving magic that spins round and
I also had a guitar that has a
keyboard on it which has never
happened before. All along it has
been experiment and discoveries not
only in music but also in art. I have
been able to harmonise art and
music. I am so gifted and I thank
God for those gifts

Joromi was one of your major hits, how
was it?

The final triumphant entry is Joromi.
It made the first gold disc in Africa;
it is like a Grammy award. So I was
the first Gold Disc winner in Africa
and it was on Joromi. After 10 years,
the single phased out and nobody
has single anywhere in Nigeria. That
was one phenomenon. It is the only
gold in Nigeria and the first in Africa.
So I have always been there first,
opening the doors for different
awards for blacksI

How have you been able to cope with
fame and women?

It was discipline, I knew where I was
coming from. I knew where I was
going, and I knew what I wanted.
There is nothing that has not existed
unless you have not been
opportuned to have that esoteric
knowledge to experience or know
them. I kept myself busy to be happy
and when you are busy you don’t
have distractions. It is only
somebody who is not busy and
doesn’t plan how he wants to live his
life that will be distracted. Some
people don’t have plans so they can
easily fall prey to anything but it will
interest you to know that I don’t
smoke and I have never smoked in
my life. It is hard to believe that I
have never ever smoked cigarette, I
don’t drink; only nowadays I take a
glass of wine because it is good for
the heart. So discipline is the key
and moderation.

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I do most things with moderation; I
eat healthy food, do exercises and a
whole lot of things though it is
discipline. Life is like a circle and the
beginning of the circle is life itself.
You must understand life,
philosophy, geometry, spiritual
axioms, where you are coming from,
where you are going and understand
history.
In every situation there must be a
template, that is why I said the worst
plan is better than no plan at all.
Plan something so that you have a
route of where to follow. When you
plot your graph, you go places and
next time you can even improve on
that graph because where theory and
practical fails, experience takes over
so you would have gained
experience.

Are you impressed with the kind of
music you hear these days

They are completely two worlds, you
go to the studio and record, when
you make a mistake you repeat all
over again but over time they started
introducing small gadgets until we
got to the age of computer. In
computer you don’t need to have a
band, one man can record, he goes
to the studio, lay down the track, play
the other instrument, get the other
musician to lay down his track
differently, just like a tailor making a
shirt. He cuts them into pieces and
sews them together. So, for our
young ones today, it is not that they
understand music but they play
music and the computer is arranging
it for them. The computer will
concise the bad voice and put it in
line and shape and the producer
helps a lot. The producer has an idea
but the computer is supposed to be a
model to have an idea of what a
song should sound like but it is not
music itself.

You still have musical instrument.
People must learn how to play
musical instrument because once
you know the rudiments of music,
you can play several instruments. I
play almost all musical instruments,
from piano to sax, to bass guitar,
guitar, clarinet, xylophone and a lot
of other instruments. I didn’t want to
play trumpet because I didn’t want
any mark on my lips, that is the only
one I avoided. So over the years,
music has always been revolving. In
our days, you don’t dance anyhow
you have to go to a dance school to
learn how to dance Bolo, Quick Step,
Foxtrot, Cha Cha, Bolero, Pechanga
and classic but now it is a free for all
dance.

But all I know is that we allow them
to go because who would have given
them jobs. Most of them are self-
employed. Whether you like it or not
they are making waves and also
making a living out of it but for how
long?. We only thank God that most
of us who have been there for over
50 years are still there and the young
ones are still appreciating us.
Sometimes they go back into our
archives and give it a remix. But I
will still encourage them to learn
how to play musical instrument so
that they can also be equipped with
that in life.

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Don’t you think the computer thing is
killing talents?

Yes, it kills talents. The computer is
a rogue and a thief, it is like you
allow somebody to go into the
examination hall with mobile phone,
he knows the answer before the
question. So music from the
computer is known before they are
recorded and that is no music. The
person doesn’t know music yet he is
playing music. The best thing is to
encourage them to be playing live
music and learn musical
instruments. Instruments are still
sold and they are taught in schools.
Life is give and take so let’s give
them the benefit of doubt, they are
young and if I were born in this era, I
probably would have behaved like
them. So it is the situation they
found themselves and it is the
implied act of their existence. The
implied act of my existence was 60
years ago but I have been able to
give new rendition to events of life. I
have reinvented myself over and over
again but some of these people have
one way to go and when that way is
blocked they think that is the end.

Tell us about your new album which will
be launched soon

My new album is titled “You Are the
Finest” and the second title is
“Wa’bugie”. Finest is a painting of a
picture of beautiful lady, while the
Wa’bugie is about a traditional
wedding ceremony. It is a song that
will be a must for all occasions,
coming all the way over 60 years. I
am still composing and releasing
albums as I have produced over 600
songs. I am presenting it officially on
the 3rd of December, and after that I
will give it to few DJs.

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