Several years after he designed and built a customised speed car, musician-turned lecturer, Sir Victor Uwaifo, is still awaiting investors, Chux Ohai writes
Multi-talented highlife musician, Sir Victor Uwaifo, is a successful man in all ramifications. But the celebrated singer seems to be agitated by a little problem.
He says that despite his contributions to the development of Nigeria, through music, sculpture and unique inventions, nobody has deemed it fit to explore the commercial viability of his works.
"It must be the devil's trick that a man is born in a country where natural talent is not appreciated. I have invented so many things and nobody has ever come to discuss with me. As an inventor, I think I have done my job. You don't expect me to market the products myself," he notes in an interview with our correspondent at his palatial home in Benin City, capital of Edo State..
Apart from a car which he built with a Volkswagen engine in 1995 and christened 'Vision 01', Uwaifo invented the double-necked guitar, the magic guitar-a fusion of the keyboard and rhythm box guitar for solo performances. He also invented the revolving guitar, which is equipped with a 'belt hook' that enables it to revolve during performances. His latest invention, known as the AK47 guitar, is actually shaped like a rifle and handled the same way.
He considers the car as one of his greatest achievements. "I designed and built it myself. Then I drove it to Abuja from Benin City myself," he says, beaming with pride. For his trouble, all he got was an award from the organisers of the Abuja International Trade Fair.
Yet the musician, who has travelled extensively beyond these shores and now teaches sculpture in the Department of Fine and Applied Arts at the University of Benin, has distinguished himself as a research scholar and a sculptor.
Uwaifo's private museum, known as the Revelation Tourist Pallazzo, bears a clear testimony to his prowess as a sculptor. Situated right beside his residence off College Road in Benin City, the facility is divided into about seven different sections.
Each of these sections contains sculpted images that bear a historical and cultural relevance to Nigeria and the Benin Kingdom. For example, the images in the Hall of Death explain, in part, the origin of the Eyo masquerade and the legend of the seven-headed spirit known in Bini folklore as Joromi. The spirit is the metaphor explored in Uwaifo's best-selling song, Joromi.
Also, the Hall of Bini History sheds some light on the actual circumstances leading to the historical event known as the Benin Massacre of 1897.
Although Uwaifo is known to most Nigerians as one of the most talented musicians that the country has ever produced, his inventiveness is a part of him still unknown to many music fans across the country.
To those who have been privileged to watch his career as a performing artist blossom over the past decades, he is a wizard with the guitar.
Uwaifo's mastery of the instrument, which he started playing at the age of 12, is legendary. Interestingly his dexterity with the musical instrument has been linked to a much-publicised encounter with a mermaid at the Bar beach in Lagos.
Inside the Pallazzo, the original guitar itself, which has somewhat defined his upward swing on the global music scene, is currently on display in his private museum in Benin City, capital of Edo State.
But the fact remains that the man, whom music fans have nicknamed 'Guitar Boy, ' in deference to his talent, is not just a musician and composer. He is, as a matter of fact, a man of many parts.
During the visit to his residence, our correspondent was delighted to discover Uwaifo the 'car mechanic'.
Although it was not yet midday, the musician was already busy fixing one of the six cars parked in his compound. Moving from one vehicle to another, he worked quietly and with a speed that belied his 70 odd years.
"I fix my cars myself," he declared afterwards.
A few minutes later, reclining on a 'throne'- which is actually a high chair placed on a raised dais-in his expansive sitting room, Uwaifo the 'car mechanic' slowly transformed into an architect and designer.
"I designed and supervised the building of this house," he said, waving at the room.
A short distance from his home, he showed our correspondent the exotic paintings on stained glass at St. John's Anglican Church and said, "These paintings are mine."
Still wondering why there is little appreciation for his works, he said, "If it comes to music, I was the first performing artiste to win a gold disc in Africa. I was the first musician to be appointed Ambassador for Arts and Culture in this country. I am the first musician to be given a national honour. That was 31 years ago. I am the first Nigerian musician to be made a professor and an academic."
In spite of the obvious lack of appreciation for his inventions, Uwaifo has decided to continue to immerse himself in his work as a performing musician, sculptor, painter and scholar. He was recently signed on to Hypertek Digital, Tuface Idibia's music label.