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None of My Kids Can Be My Successor…Because How Can You Be Artist, Sculptor, Inventor Rolled in One, Says Sir Victor Uwaifo aka Joromi

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Prof. Victor Efosa Uwaifo, the guitar boy, is many things rolled into one: sculptor, inventor, academic, visionary, philosopher and of course music super star. Uwaifo is that music maestro whose song ‘Joromi’ won Africa the first gold disc 50 years ago. In this interview with AGENE AKHERE in Benin- City, Sir Uwaifo speaks about his music, children, life at 75 and why he is taking a second Ph.D in Biometics…
 
75 years on, how do you feel?
 
I feel like yesterday. I have not changed. When I wake up in the morning, I look at myself in the mirror, I am the same. I am actually looking forward to the day I will be different and I will not look Victor Uwaifo, then I will know that things are changing. I have always looked like this and each time I wake up, I comb my hair, brush my teeth, I look the same. So, age is just a matter of numbers as far as I am concerned. I am happy and I feel so healthy because as I stand now, as I am speaking to you I still do 100 press ups every morning and I have been doing that for the past 60 years. Sound mind in a sound body, you might say.
 
What is the secret of being fit and looking young after all these years?
 
The secret is what I just told you. The press ups, not only that, long life has to do with the physical, mental and spiritual. As I stand now, I am doing a second PhD in Biometics. It refers to the processes, systems and devices that imitate nature. It’s like cloning (shows pictures of some of his works like his teeth, his hands). In painting, it is fine, but in sculpture before you can do it, is not easy. So physical, mental, spiritual and as I speak with you, I also have a private chapel in my house, where retires to. I commune with the Almighty. Then moderation, I don’t overdo anything. I have never smoked in my life. I have never torched cigarettes in my life. Not that I smoked and I left it. No, I have never tried it. I don’t drink. Now, I only sip red wine when I eat. 
 
This new area you are studying, Biometics, tell me about the background to that choice?
 
I did Sculpture. I have B. A. 1st Class with honours in Sculpture, 1994. I did my Masters degree also in Sculpture in 1996, became a Commissioner, served in the classroom, teaching for a few years as a full-time Lecturer at the University of Benin. So, what I am doing now is a new course. In between, I have been performing as a musician. I performed at one of the award ceremonies of the Nigerian Pilot Newspaper, Nigerian Newswatch Magazine at Abuja. I am still performing; last year December, I performed for the Lagos Motor Club. The news is that I have now been written a letter by Silverbird Group as Winner of the Man of the Year Life Entertainment Achievement Award.
 
Can you tell us about the spiritual aspect of your life?
 
I commune with God. Each time I think of the creator. I am a visionary. I think of it, it is not taking a microphone and preaching that makes you an evangelist. By what you do, you glorify God, you are already a preacher. I am a Catholic. I worship at the Holy Cross Cathedral on Mission Road in Benin-City. And like I said before, in my house I have a chapel which I named Soul Gate. The communication between man and God is the soul. So in the chapel, you commune and you are in tandem with the spiritual world. And God in his infinite mercy – l call God the Universal Mind – when you commune with the Universal Mind he reveals to you things you have to achieve, things you have to do and then you do all to the glory of God. It is not to your glory.
Because I have two many talents and if I had allowed them to waste it would be a sin. I have achieved, I have explored and exploited each of the talents God has given me to the limit. From Music to Arts, Sculpture, Engineering, Architecture to Design. Just name it. To Sports and now Biometics. As I speak I work on the computer. In fact you are never old; you are only old when you fail to follow the trend. Time leaves you. Otherwise, when you move with the time or even more ahead of time…I always say time is so slow. I wish I had enough time to fix it for the rest of the work. Time is never enough. But I won’t come; it comes at its own pace. Sometimes I say time is so sluggish, I just feel that God has been so wonderful, so kind and has given me so many gifts and I identified and realized them early in life. Can you imagine 50 years ago, I made the first gold disc in Africa? It was not easy to even sell 1000 records but I sold over 100,000 in one week. Apart from that, 33 years ago I was honoured by the President of Nigeria with the National Honour of the Member of the Order of Niger (MON). I did not have any idea of what a national honour meant. It was so strange I value that honour more than gold now.
 
What legacies do you want to leave behind because it seems you have so much to give the world?
 
The legacy I am leaving behind? I am not going anywhere oh, so the matter of leaving any legacy behind does not arise. But I have the Revelation Palazzo Museum close to my residence in Benin-City. What is a legacy? Then the Victor Uwaifo Music Academy. There are other legacies: the Ebony Band, Lagos is an alumni of the academy. Then Baba 2010 Abuja, Vintage Band, Lagos, Damee, Benin, etc. At lot of them are all alumni of this academy. We have contributed also to knowledge and the building of people, and adding to life. It makes me happy. An achiever does not rest unless he wants achievement to rest. My philosophy is that don’t wait for destiny to make you up, get up and wake up your destiny.
 
Some would say that you are into mysticism looking at your view of life.
 
I am a mystic. You have to study me. Yes, how will I put it? It’s like the way I see things are different from how others see things. As a maestro, I hear sound that you cannot hear, then I capture the sound and put them into a record. Then as an artist, I see things you cannot see crying for help to be brought out, then I bring them out. Is that not a mystic? 
 
With your numerous children, do you have some of them following your footsteps?
 
I don’t have so many children. I am married. When you say so many, it’s like I have a football team. No way. I have quite a few. It’s wrong to follow the footsteps of people, because as far as I am concerned, I know I am a genius and genius comes once in a lifetime. Getting a successor is most unlikely. Because how can you be an artist, painter, inventor?  As I said I am still reading, I am a PhD student. My children have art, music in their blood already, but in different forms. That’s already a signature, a trademark in all of them. But I can’t find any of my children that has all of the multi-faceted qualities that I have, that’s the difference between me and my children.
 
Looking back at your younger days and nowadays, what do you think has given way, that is now out of place?
 
In our days it was originality, creativity and satisfaction and self-motivation. But today, it’s all about money. People want to rush, to get rich quickly within a twinkle of an eye, without learning the ropes. Then technology came in and took its toll on our young ones. It’s like if you do not have a good foundation, if the foundation is weak,
you are bound to fall apart. People do not learn music again; they don’t learn how to play musical instruments. They don’t undergo apprenticeship and that is one thing missing from way back. Then the computer plays the music and it’s plastic. The music has no soul. But if you play music live, it has soul, like the way you breathe. The breath is absent on the computer, it’s not there. It’s quite unnatural. It’s ephemeral. But the technology has impaired the quality of sound and video and mortgaged creativity and originality. It’s like creating more mediocres than meritocrats. So I would like to advise the young ones to learn from the masters. They should learn the rudiments of music. They should have a mentor. One person that they imitate, just like mimicking that person and in the end you carve out your identity. The late Sony Okosun was a member of my band and when he was pulling out, he asked for my blessing and I gave him. He did great before he died. So there must be apprenticeship. Everybody can play the football. All have talents. But you have to learn how to play the ball to help the team win matches by scoring the goals. The fact that you can sing does not make you a musician. You have to learn the art of singing.
 
But there are very few formal schools like yours where the young can enrol for formal training to be a musician?    
        
There are different ways of getting apprenticeship. You can attach yourself to a band for example. You are already in school. This is a way of learning the ropes. I am not talking of a formal school setting as such. But if you go to a formal school to learn music and go to a university, better, you will see more than others. You will hear more than others. It’s very good to go beyond the normal way of doing things. If you go for formal training, it’s ok, but if you cannot it does not matter. For instance, take some inventors like Faraday, Bill Gates, Brian Bell, they did not go to formal school. They made discoveries before looking for the underlying theories governing their findings.  I am glad that the world is changing and if you can change with the time then you are on course.  

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