By Tahav Agerzua
We met a number of times over the years but somehow I didn’t have the urge to interview him. Indeed, the last memorable meeting with him was in the early nineties when I watched his live performance at Independence Hotel in Gboko. His mastery of the Piano and dramatic handling of that instrument was spell-binding.
It was such an incredibly memorable time for me and Terlumun Nyifan, my colleague at The Voice newspaper, who attended the show with me, that we’ve spoken about it so many times thereafter.
How could we forget the performance when a woman who gave us her motorcycle to ride home after the show later took us to the police claiming that we stole it? But that is a story for another day.
For the Jim Pax Cum Numbe tale, the prompting came when I saw his picture with my University of Jos contemporary and longstanding friend, Dr Bem Meladu, Chairman of the Benue State Local Government Service Commission, on Facebook recently.
Luckily, Mr Adikpo Agbatse, who has thrilled people by declaring interest in the 2023 Benue State Governorship, made Jim Numbe’s phone number available, in his comments on the post, and I picked it.
After several attempts I got in touch with him and eventually we met in Adikpo last Tuesday.
Jim Numbe, the famous music legend of the seventies is a delight to interact with. He is a gentleman whose civility and friendliness is infectious.
His command of spoken Tiv and English is impeccable. This comes from a background of proper grooming from the NKST Church, the outstanding legendary principal of principals, Miss Geraldine Vandenberg of Bristow Secondary School, as well as extensive travel and exposure.
Although he confessed to me that his memory has come under severe attacks from Parkinson’s disease, he recalls some memorable dates and events.
Born on February 29, 1948, to a father who was an Evangelist, the legend recalls that he went to primary schools around his local community of Jato-Aka in Kwande local government area of Benue State before being admitted into Bristow Gboko, where he completed secondary school education in 1966.
He says he proceeded to Kaduna Polytechnic before the pull of music took him away from that institution.
The legend says he remains eternally to Wantaregh Paul Iyorpuu Unongo, one of his most influential relatives, who identified his talent and handed him over to Sir Victor Uwaifo for tutelage.
He says after two years he expressed the desire to set out on his own and Wantaregh Unongo bought all the required instruments for him and he returned to Benue State in 1970 to establish his band.
Jim Numbe also recalls that the renowned politician even took him to one of his friends who owned a music school in Canada for further grooming.
But he states that he did not realize his full potentials in music because his attachment to Wantaregh Unongo made other people to leave his patronage entirely in the hands of the politician who did his best for him.
Moreover, when the Juladaco Conglomerate which Wantaregh Unongo established took off he also had to participate actively in its activities at the detriment of concentration on his musical career.
In retrospect, he blames himself for having been in a hurry to graduate from tutelage during his youth and wished he had spend more time with Sir Uwaifo and in the music school in Canada.
Jim Numbe urges upcoming musicians to patiently undergo the required apprenticeship and to make efforts to master at least one musical instrument rather than depending on computer generated rythms.
He says although he learnt to play almost all instruments he has specialized in the lead guitar and piano.
The legendary musician says although he waxed four albums at the peak of his career he cannot readily locate any them at the moment.
But he states that he has new compositions which are yet to be put on CD on account of financial constraints and appeals for support to be able to do that.
Jim Numbe expresses profound gratitude to Wantaregh Unongo for footing most of his medical bills over the years and paying for his drugs every month.
The legend explains that although he is head of his family in the village he stays most of the times with one of his relatives, Mrs Nguamo Boko, a staff of the Bureau for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs who takes good care of him in Adikpo which is close enough to his ancestral home.
He says he is married with children.
The legend granted me a one hour formal recorded interview on his life and musical career.