Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Music of many colours

In continuance of the little Victor Uwaifo thing we've been on, I decided to post this offering from the crates, No Palava (or No Palava/Delicate Lover).

I just listened to it this morning for the first time in years and figured it merited sharing, though I must advise that it is from 1984, The Year (in my mind, at least) That Nigerian Music Started To Suck--as such it betrays hints of the glossy yet sterile digital production and cheesy synth sounds that would soon become the industry standard. The songs themselves are pretty good, though: on this album, Uwaifo skips the Edo folklore-based material for poppy songs in English and pidgin, dealing with the vagaries of romantic love. The title track, "No Palava," celebrates rough makeup sex while on the flip side, "Delicate Lover" offers, I guess, the antithesis to that. Actually, now that I think about it, side A sort of represents the "rough" side and side B the "delicate" side.

The liner notes by Dili Uzuka recounts Uwaifo's history and achievements up to that point, including his then-recent honor as a Member of the Order of the Niger. A lot of the other information contained therein is I already went over in my last post, but also one tidbit I forgot to mention: Victor Uwaifo's claim to have created an innovative system of musical notation based on not on notes, but on colors. Specifically, the colors of traditional woven akwete cloth!

SIR VICTOR UWAIFO born on the 1st March 1941, graduate of Graphic and Commercial Art, Yaba College of Technology (1963), had resigned his appointment with the Nigeria Television Service Lagos because he had discovered the relativity between Colours and Music. Elementarily, he explained it thus:

"...take for example BLACK which is the strongest colour: it's [sic] musical interpretation will be DOH, Dominant, which is also the premier musical note.
ME, the Third, is represented by BLUE.
SOL, the Fifth, which harmonizes with all musical notes is WHITE, Neutral, which harmonizes with all colours".
If we struck at Chord of C Major, we'll have a representation like this:


A colour out of place in a painting will cause as much unpleasantness as a discordant musical note in a chord. SIR VICTOR UWAFOR'S [sic] inspiration came from the 'rhythmical' colour-weave pattern of the African Akwete Cloth. He says with elation, "I can conveniently marry sight to sound because I 'see in colours' and I can 'hear'.
(Frankly, I never really comprehended Uwaifo's color notation theory, and I doubt anyone else did either, but hey... We're merely mortals!)

Elsewhere, Uzuka exhorts that just as Uwaifo's innovative music withstood the encroachment of soul and pop in the 1960s and 70s, so would it survive the "rasta invasion"--At the time this record was released, reggae was stealthily, steadily creeping up to become Nigeria's predominant pop sound.

Of course, Uwaifo himself had been flirting with reggae rhythms since the mid-70s and includes the sweet lovers tune "Take This Message To My Darling" on this album. Interestingly, the drummer on this session is Black Rice (or Black O'Rice), sticksman in the Benin-originated underground roots reggae band Jahstix. In the mid-80s, Jahstix was set to blow up in a big way, but their album never came out and their lead singer/guitarist Majek Fashek got a solo deal and was prodded into the Next Bob Marley™ fast track. Black Rice later moved to the Netherlands, and last I heard, he was serving a jail term for murder there. (Don't know if it's true, though.)


1. No Palava
2. Abana
3. Khakhi Nobi Leather

1. Delicate Lover
2. Take This Message To My Darling
3. Come Into My Life Jejeje

All songs composed and arranged by Sir Victor Uwaifo (M.O.N.)

Bass guitar - Tony Bucknor
Percussions - King Pago
Ekwe - Sam Abosei
Drums - Black O'Rice
1st Guitar - Godfrey Okunmwonyi
2nd Guitar - Jerry Moscow
Lead guitar, vocals, keyboards and flute - Sir Victor
Tenor sax - Roy Maco
Tenor sax solos - Christopher Uwaifo, Kojo Ochri
Backing voices - Osayame Uwaifo & Mabel Judith Ezekoka & Christy Odita

A Joromi Production


jon said...

Are you sure he studied graphic design? Did he do his own album covers? Oh well, I guss you can't be brilliant at everything. . .
Don't get me wrong, i like the cover but for all the wrong reasons.
Jon ( graphic design graduate, but actually an iluustrator )

Comb & Razor said...

hahaha... no, i don't think he did his own covers. he definitely didn't do this one!

i didn't know you were an illustrator, though...)

"Big Al" Maghreb said...

That color-as-notation theory is wild! Thought I'd flipped channels and started reading a Sun Ra bio for a second. Anyway, sure it's gonna be another burner, man, thanks for posting it!

By the way, I started that Ned Sublette book you recommended and it's a bomb! Awesome! Totally flipping my wig.

Comb & Razor said...

yeah, the Sublette book opened my eyes to a lot of stuff... we should talk about it soon!

i'm reading The Latin Beat now.

John B. said...

The thing I like about Uwaifo is that over the years he's been willing to experiment and try different approaches to his music.

He put out a really good LP in the '80s entitled Egwu Ozo. It had tunes in Yoruba, Edo, Hausa and Igbo. If you don't have it, maybe I'll post it at my site.

Comb & Razor said...


yeah, i've never heard that album but i've seen it on your discography and i've always been curious about it.

hope you post it soon!