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2008 - week 36, from 7 Sept - Sir Victor Uwaifo

PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 11:40 am
by Charlie
Seq - Artist - Song Title - Album - Country - Label - Cat no

1 - Cardinal Rex Lawson & His Mayors' band of Nigeria - So Ala Temen - Rex Lawson's Greatest Hits - Nigeria - Flame Tree - FLTRCD531

2 - Sir Victor Uwaifo - Joromi - single - Nigeria - Philips - PF 383045

3 - Sir Victor Uwaifo - Iye Iye Oh - Guitar-Boy Superstar - Nigeria - SoundWay - SNDWCD012

4 - Sir Victor Uwaifo - Edenderio - Guitar-Boy Superstar - Nigeria - SoundWay - SNDWCD012

5 - Sir Victor Uwaifo - Guitar Boy and Mami Water - single - Nigeria - Philips - PF 383245


It’s paradoxical that West African music fans in the UK are liable to know far more about the music of Francophone countries from the 1970s onwards than the music of the Anglophone countries, Nigeria and Ghana, from the same period. Among Nigerian musicians, Fela Kuti and King Sunny Ade are more or less household names, but after that the list runs dry; even those of us able to recite a few more names will have trouble placing them geographically or generically. Recent compilations on Honest Jon’s and SoundWay have whetted the appetite by introducing even more previously unknown names, while at the same time adding to the overall sense of ignorance and confusion. Who is who and what is what?


To the rescue comes Miles Cleret of SoundWay, honing in on one of the most frequently recurring names, Sir Victor Uwaifo, and bringing together a fascinating collection of his music from 1970-76, Guitar-Boy Superstar. The accompanying biographical note reports that he is now a Professor of Sculpture at the University of Benin City in the East of Nigeria. I wondered if it might be possible to speak to him on a good quality phone line. Yes, but only if he was willing to make the 350-mile round trip to the BBC’s office in Lagos. He was and he did and this programme is the result.


For the current issue of Songlines, Victor completed a Q&A questionnaire in which he mentioned Highlife musician Rex Lawson as a Nigerian band-leader and singer he admired, and in the programme Victor elaborates on how Rex emphasised the bottom end of his sound by placing a microphone near to the double bass. Victor’s own innovation was to introduce electric guitar and electric bass into Highlife, enabling him to match the electric guitar music coming from the US and the UK.

album cover courtesy of

Despite its title, the SoundWay album does not actually include Victor’s famous ‘Guitar Boy’ single from 1967, or the song that made his reputation a few months earlier, the million-selling ‘Joromi’. The versions released on recent compilations including the Rough Guide to Nigeria & Ghana are later re-recordings, but through the miracles of modern communication, Miles Cleret sent me digital copies of the original versions of both songs heard here.

album cover courtesy of

Several times during the conversation, Victor explained how he devised sounds, melodies and arrangements in his search for new ways to attract attention and implant his songs indelibly in the memory. He's a major composer, as well as a guitar virtuoso with formidable energy and imagination.

Still only 67, a contemporary of Mahmoud Ahmed of Ethiopia, for instance, Victor continues to play live in Nigeria on special occasions, and it would be great if he and his band could be brought over here, to help to re-establish his place as one of the great innovators of modern popular music.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 1:39 pm
by David Flower
i bought Guitar SUprstar on Amazon but vinyl by mistake. It's a beautiful double album package and tempting to keep, but really I want the CD. Anyone want to buy it? I paid £14.99. Unplayed

PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 1:57 pm
by Papa M
Go on! Treat yourself - Buy a turntable. 8)

PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 2:19 pm
by David Flower
got one , but it's not in my car

PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 3:41 pm
by Papa M
David Flower wrote:got one , but it's not in my car

Yes, its a bugger trying to get the needle into the groove when your driving.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 10:34 pm
by Gordon Neill
Papa M. said:

David Flower wrote:

got one , but it's not in my car

Yes, its a bugger trying to get the needle into the groove when your driving.

Not necessarily. You need to think laterally, or at least lying down. Here's a retro record player. The wee car drives around the record, playing music through a built in speaker.


PostPosted: Fri Sep 05, 2008 11:25 pm
by Rob Hall
But does it play 45 rpm in a 30 mph limit?


PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2008 11:08 am
by Charlie
email from:

1. Edmund Gough, Ontario,Canada

I would like to purchase two of the songs played on your BBC programme of Sept.7/2008.They are:Joromi by Sir Victor Uwaifo (Cat.#383045PF) and Guitar Boy And Mami Water by Sir Victor Uwaifo And His Melody Maestroes (Cat #PF383245) Please tell me how I could obtain these two Cds.

Thank You


CG reply: those catalogue numbers are the original 45s, Edmund, but Victor has CD albums for sale including these tracks at his own website:


2. tetteh carboo, accra, ghana


my word!!!!

your programme today was heavenly.

I woke up at 2.35am to hear you with sir victor uwaifo.

I couln't sleep after that.

How come they don't make music like that any more?


3. Milton Nowak, New York, NY

Dear Charlie,

After carefully describing the recording that made the artist famous, you then play another record---very disappointing.


CG reply: Did we? If so, sorry. When I was doing the interview, I did not realise that 'Joromi' pre-dated 'Guitar Boy' (by a few months). Figured it all out afterwards. Must do my homework next time.

4. stefan in prague, czech republic

thanks so much for this week's show with victor uwaifo!

i was nearly moved to tears hearing the song 'iye iye oh'. i've heard it before on your show or somewhere? i don't know why it makes me so emotional - the splendid naivité, the calm haunt of the voice, or the evocative music that sucks me in and makes me worship every note? now if i could have a 20 minute version to listen to over and over until i drown.

thanks so much, charlie!

hear you next week!

5. Dr Alister McFarquhar, Cambridge

Sir Victor Highlife fabulous.

So quick after my request!!

Dreaming of fav open highlife spot in Ikeja and star beer not to mention palm wine bars by every Govt Rest House.

Tks for memory




6. Mathan Rajah Thurai, Tronheim, Norway

The best programme that I ever heard from any radio-stations in the world.

Many thanks Charlie!

Mathan Raja

7. Amos Kasibante, Leicester

How do I get hold of Victor Uwaifo's song Joromi?

I am a regular listener to the programme


8. Carlinhos, Brussels, Belgium

Again, listening to Charlie Gillet's program, I feel so good. I'm back to the days when I was stationed in Niger, in 1983, near lake Chad & my best friend was a Nigeria custom officer from Port Harcourt.

Charlie G is the best. When I wanted to go to Barcelona w/ my teenage girl, after her mother killed herself, he e-mailed the good music places to go! C Gillett is the best!!

Y podemos hablar español!



9. Patrick Feni, Kampala, Uganda

Dear Charlie Gillet,

I just want to let you know that I love to listen to your exotic compilation of World Tracks. Please let me know how I could get hold of some of these Tracks for keeps. Sir Victor Uwaifo's 'Joromi' simply great!



CG reply - see my comment under item 1, above


10. Emanuel Ogu, Abu Dhabi

Charlie - I am a Nigerian living in Abu Dhabi. About two weeks ago you had Victor Uwaifor on your program. You cannot imagine what that did for me. the little i caught of the programme was just fantastic. please let me know his new release. Is it a compilation album? I grew up listening to his music along with Fela, Sunny Ade,Sunny Okosun, Etc, Etc.

11. Message sent via FaceBook:

Hi charlie your bit with uwaifo was superb.

But i still insist that you move upward to Northern Nigeria and see what we have to offer musically.

thanks from your consistant fan Abubakar
reply from CG:

OK, Abubakar, give me some names to look for, past or present



from Abubakar Salihu:

1.Dr.Mamman Shata
2.Garba Leo
3.Habibu Sakarci
4.Dan"Maraya Jos
5.Haruna Uji
6.Dan Goma

You may get their records from your colleaguesBBC Hausa, cheers

PostPosted: Sun Sep 07, 2008 12:31 pm
by Chris P
Really enjoyed the programme; some great music + Victor's genial chat & background to it - loved the way he sung one of his old arrangements . Was there more of the conversation/ interview Charlie ? It would seem that rare occasions like these would be a good chance for extended discussion that could maybe be published or podcast giving some fresh insights into patchily documented but exciting musical times.
Was reading about the Lagos music scene of the mid sixties* and saw that Rex Lawson was not only 'Cardinal' but 'Cardinal Archbishop Rex Lawson' at one time.

* Fela: From West Africa to West Broadway. A patchy book with many contributors, some very interesting, some dull

PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2008 10:20 am
by garth cartwright
Yes, a really good show - great music and a fine interview. Interesting to hear him acknowledge The Shadows - they were once so famous and influential yet you almost never hear them mentioned these days. I wonder why they're so forgotten? A lack of the qualities needed to be a "cult" act I suspect is part of it.

PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2008 11:09 am
by howard male
I've not listened yet but will do this morning - looking forward to it. However, I can't resist giving you a short paragraph from my novel, in the light of a dialogue going on here which ended with Rob's words:

But does it play 45 rpm in a 30 mph limit?

My hero (for want of a better description) is driving and reminising about the early 70's and his favourite band...

Howard (would-be novelest) Male wrote -

I remember slipping ‘Niagara Falls Again’ from its white paper sleeve, admiring the vivid red Fly Agaric mushroom logo on the label, and then lowered the weighty stylus onto its spinning surface. Even my record player seemed to love that single! I would stare at it hypnotised as the slight warp of the vinyl caused the player’s arm to seemingly bop in time to the beat. Back in my car I had a pleasing moment of lateral perception: the dark glistening tarmac beneath my wheels was the record, and my chunky little car was the stylus; I was stationary, as the road rushed beneath me at a steady 45 rpm. Oh to be a stylus! You can’t get any closer to the music than that.

PostPosted: Fri Sep 12, 2008 12:19 pm
by David Flower
any idea why this is down at the moment?

PostPosted: Fri Sep 12, 2008 5:26 pm
by Charlie
David Flower wrote:any idea why this is down at the moment?

It isn't as down as it seems

Although it says 'not available' when you first arrive at the iPlayer, you can scroll through the presenters at the foot of the display until you get to my section, which leads you to the programme!

I have told the powers that be at the World Service, and hope they have time to sort it out before going home this evening

PostPosted: Fri Sep 12, 2008 9:48 pm
by Gordon Neill
I had no problem with the button clicking so, presumably, the problem's been sorted now.

And thank goodness, as this was a brilliant show. I've heard 'Guitar Boy' and 'Joromi' before on various compilations. But unaccountably had just assumed these were one-offs (well, two-offs, I suppose). But Sir Victor was a truly great interviewee, and what a guy for making the 350 mile round-trip! I loved every single track that was played. I'm not normally one to pay much attention to guitar players (as far as I'm concerned, they're generally just there so the singer can get a bit of a breather) but his playing is so inventive and melodic.

My finger's been hovering over the 'buy now' button for a couple of weeks but its now taken the plunge and I'll soon be the proud owner of the Soundway compilation.

And Sir Victor's website, mentioned by Charlie, is well worth a visit. Poet, athlete, writer, inventor, musician..... He appears to be a master of all trades and a Jack of none.

PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2008 1:17 pm
by Ronald
I finally had a chance to listen last night and enjoyed it very much, I liked the way Victor spoke about his career, he seems a very relaxed person. You can also see him explain about some of his songs on You tube

Victor Uwaifo - Guitar boy

Victor Uwaifo