We have lost another veteran of African music. Victor Efosa Uwaifo, a giant of Nigeria’s Edo highlife music, died at the age of 80 on Aug. 28, 2021. The composer, bandleader, sculptor and university lecturer created 12 gold record songs in Nigeria and toured the world with his bands the Melody Makers and Shadow. Having started playing guitar as a 12-year-old, Uwaifo became a regional star in 1965 with the release of “Joromi,” a signature song that went gold and also became the name of his hotel in Benin City.
Like so many greats of Nigeria’s highlife era, Uwaifo played early on with Victor Olaiya’s All Stars band, and later with Chief Stephen Osita Osadebe before striking out on his own as a bandleader. Uwaifo created a number of music and dance styles including the twist variant akwete and ekassa, his personal take on the Edo highlife sound.
Afropop producer Morgan Greenstreet was lucky enough to interview Uwaifo in 2016. Portions of that interview can be heard in Morgan’s program "Edo Highlife: Culture Politics and Progressive Traditionalism." The program includes a priceless anecdote on how Uwaifo came to compose his timeless classic, “Guitar Boy.” Among the last great innovators of the highlife era, Victor Uwaifo will be sorely missed and lovingly remembered.