Sir Victor Uwaifo
For many years, most African music remained unavailable to Americans. Aside from rare finds in immigrants’ shops, and sounds lucky to make it through to the world music circuit, the majority of the best African music remains unheard by Western ears. However, thanks to enterprising record labels such as Soundway (curators of the fantastic Ghana Soundz and Nigeria Special compilations), many gems are now available. Soundway’s latest compilation is of 1970s works by Nigeria’s Sir Victor Uwaifo, the first African recording artist to be awarded a gold disc, yet criminally unknown here. Uwaifo’s “ekassa” songs are generally brief and melodically sweet, with virtuosic guitar leads sometimes missing from Afrobeat. Yet Uwaifo’s music, while mellower than his confrontational countryman Fela, retains a timeless urgency.