Q: 75 years on, how does it feel?
A: 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 like Victor Uwaifo and 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.
Q: What is the secret of being fit after all these years?
A: 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 Biomimetics. It refers to 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, it is not easy. So physical, mental, spiritual and as I speak with you, I also have a private chapel in my house, where I commune with the Almighty. Then moderation, I don’t overdo anything. I have never smoked in my life. I have never touched cigarette 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.
Q: Besides this new area you are studying, Biomimetics, what is your background?
A: I did sculpture. I have B.A, 1st class; I’m also a valedictorian, 1994 Honours in Sculpture. I did my Masters degree also in Sculpture in 1996, became a Commissioner and 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 Awards Ceremonies of the Nigerian Pilot Newspaper/Nigerian Newsworld 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 Man of the Year Life Entertainment Achievement Award.
Q: Tell us about the spiritual aspect of your life?
A: I commune with God. Each time, I think of the Creator. I am a visionary. I think it is not taking a microphone and preaching that makes you an evangelist. If 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 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 have 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 Biomimetics. 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, then time leaves you. Otherwise you should move with the time or even move ahead of time. I always say time is so slow. I wish I had enough time for the rest of the work. Time is never enough. But 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 given me so many gifts and that 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 the 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.
Q: What legacy are you leaving behind because as it seems you still have so much to give the world?
A: The legacy I am leaving behind… I am not going anywhere oh, so the matter of leaving any legacy 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. A 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 wake you up. Get up and wake up your destiny.
Q: Some would say that you are into mysticism, looking at your life…?
A: I am a mystic. You have to study me. Yes how will I put it. It’s like the way I see things is different from how others see things. As a maestro, I hear sounds that you cannot hear, then I capture the sounds 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?
Q: Do you have any of your many children following your footsteps?
A: I don’t have so many children. I am married. When you say so many, its 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 a genius comes once in a lifetime. 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 multifarious qualities that I have. That’s the difference between me and my children.
Q: Looking back to your younger days, what do you think has given way, that is out of place?
A: 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 has taken its toll on our young ones. It’s like you do not have a good foundation, and 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 is plastic. The music has no soul. But if you play music live, it has soul, like the way you breadth. The breathe is absent on the computer, it’s not there. It’s quite unnatural. It’s ephemeral. But the technology has improved the quality of sound and video and mortgaged creativity and originality. It’s like creating more mediocres than meritocrats. So I would like to advice that the young ones should learn from the masters. They should learn the rudiments of music. They should have mentors.
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.
Q: But there are very few formal schools like yours where the young can enroll for formal training?
A: There are different ways of getting apprenticeship. You can attach yourself to a band for example. You are already in the 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, its ok, but if you cannot it does not matter. Take some inventors like Faraday, Bill Gates, Graham Bell, they did not go to formal school. They made discoveries before looking for the underlying theories governing their findings. So basically things have changed largely due to Research.
I am glad that the world is changing and if you can change with the times then you are on course.