b. 3 January 1941, Benin City, Nigeria. Vocalist, guitarist and band leader Uwaifo emerged in the mid-60s as one of Nigeria’s most individual performers, with a style grounded in but not limited to the highlife of Ghana and western Nigeria. Like fellow Nigerian Fela Kuti, he also recorded extensively in ‘broken’ (or ‘pidgin’) English, and so was able to transcend tribal and linguistic barriers to develop an audience throughout Anglophone West Africa. Arriving in Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, in 1958 to complete his secondary education, he led a number of school bands before joining Victor Olaiya’s All Stars on a part-time basis. In 1962, by then studying at the College of Technology in Yaba, he joined E.C. Arinze’s Highlife Band. On completing his studies, he worked as an engineer for Nigerian television and in 1965, having saved enough money to buy instruments and amplification, formed his first band, the 15-piece Melody Maestros (whose line-up later included the young Sonny Okosun). Signing to Phonogram West Africa in 1966, the Melody Maestros enjoyed three hit singles the same year - ‘Sirri Sirri’, ‘Guitar Boy’ and ‘Joromi’ - with the latter selling in vast quantities not just in Nigeria but throughout Anglophone West Africa. Based on the story of a legendary hero of Benin City, ‘Joromi’ was so popular that it earned Africa’s first Gold Disc Award in 1969. Later that year, Uwaifo and the Melody Maestros were one of Nigeria’s representatives at the Black Arts Festival in Algeria, from where they went on to tour the USA and Japan. These tours were followed by visits to the USSR and Europe. In 1971, Uwaifo opened the Joromi Hotel in Benin City, and 10 years later established his own television studio, from where he produced a weekly music and culture programme which was transmitted throughout Nigeria. Continuing to record throughout the 80s, Uwaifo today spends the majority of his time administering his various business interests.
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