Editorial

MAJEK FASHEK: Nigeria’s ever best reggae musician

The rainmaker, Majekodunmi Fasheke, globally known as Majek Fashek was one of the greatest things that has ever happened to the Nigerian music industry, and the ever best reggae musician God gifted to the “giant of Africa”. 

Born March 1963 to the Fasheke family, a Yoruba man and an Edo woman. Raised by his mother, following the death of his father when he was eleven years old. The mother, a businesswoman, who supplied concrete to road contractors inspired his love for music, through her participation in traditional religious ceremonies where the Olokun rhythms were used to accompany worship of the river goddess. As a youngster, Fashek played maracas during the ceremonies

He was an international singer, songwriter,guitarist and actor who came into limelight in the 80s. He was best known for the 1988 album, Prisoner of Conscience, which included the multiple award-winning single “Send Down the Rain”, a song which appeared to convince a rainstorm that ended one of the worst droughts in Nigeria’ s history. The song earned Majek Fashek whose name means “power of miracles, the high priest does not live”, the label of a prophet. 

Majek Fashek worked with various artists worldwide including Tracy Chapman, Jimmy Cliff, Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Beyoncé and Danny Erskine. He also had a close involvement with the late AfroBeat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. 

When the word was celebrating the new month, sighing relief from the dreadful May which was embedded with several disasters and calamities in the globe, ranging from the dreadful coronavirus, Police brutality and daylight murders, racism, rape cases amongst several others, Nigerians were met with the rude shock of the death news of the reggae legend. 

The “So Long for Too Long”, died at 57, in his sleep in New York, USA, his manager Omenka Uzoma announced on Instagram, “The legend has gone to be with the Lord, but this time we should all celebrate him. He has done a lot for Nigeria and Africa, whatever the family decides will get to you”, he wrote on his page. 

Yes, Majek Fashek had been ill for some time but Nigerians weren’t ready to bid him farewell this soon. He passed in New York, where he was reunited with his wife and three sons after separation of 10 years. 

He joined the reggae musicians at a point when highlife and juju were more dominant in Nigeria. The artist said Bob Marley was a major influence, consequently, his musical style and looks mirrored the Jamaican legend.

In 1991, Majek added lips to the political situation in Africa, sending a strong message with his album, “So Long for Too Long”. The song was a call for Africans to rise up, both in the continent and those in the diaspora. He also had a message for black people in the US: “Remember, remember, Marcus Garvey, Who had a dream for you Africa, Remember, remember, Martin Luther King, Who had a dream for you America”. 

He also wrote the song Free Africa, Free Mandela, calling for the release of the leader of the African National Congress in South Africa, Nelson Mandela. As a sign of his international reach, he appeared in 1992 on the high-profile David Letterman chat show on US television, where he sang So Long for Too Long.

In the mid 2000s there were reports that the musician was struggling with his health. Pictures of an emaciated Majek Fashek shocked Nigerians who were concerned about the star. In 2015, he spent some time in a drug rehabilitation centre in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. 

In 2016, Fashek wrote the song “We Are Not Afraid,” which was the soundtrack to an all-star fundraiser video for victims of religious and political violence around the world directed by photographer Bob Gruen that featured more than 200 artists, including Keith Richards, Robert Plant, Bruce Springsteen, Yoko Ono, Robert DeNiro, Sting, Patti Smith, Dr. Jane Goodall, Iggy Pop, Peter Gabriel, Jackson Browne, Chuck D,Joe Walsh, Bonnie Raitt, Darlene Love, Debbie Harry, Dion, Elvis Costello, Grandmaster Flash, Jeff Tweedy and Susan Sarandon, among others.

Omenka Uzoma revealed that Majek Fashek passed on peacefully but was afraid to die with his messages. Asked if the singer had any unfulfilled dreams, Uzoma-Day said, “We had plans to record the album, ‘Army of Christ’. He had told me to start laying the foundation and making other plans. I remember clearly that before we started work on the album, he told me that he didn’t want to die with his messages and music. He pushed me to complete it, even when we didn’t have the resources. He insisted I must do whatever it takes for it to be released. I am happy that we have been able to record the album and there are many messages in it. ‘The Army of Christ’ album is loaded. I am going to miss Majek so much. There were times he woke me up in the morning just to play guitar for him so he could sing. After we finished, he would then lead the prayers. I am going to miss our morning devotions and how he used to cook for me. And at other times, he would wake me by 2am to cook for him. If I complained that I was tired, he always argued that I was his manager and he was entitled to me anytime. I had no choice but to obey him.

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“We lived together and we were very close. He constantly told me to get married, that he would be the Best Man on the day. He also advised me to be close to my child. He was an African export and there was no one like him. I believe the only other people in his league were Fela (Anikulapo-Kuti), Michael Jackson and Bob Marley. Those people were spiritual in their different ways.

“Majek was very stubborn in the sense that whenever he had his mind set on doing something, he always made sure that he achieved it. That was what kept him alive.”

Uzoma also stated that Fashek still ‘played around’ a day before his death. He added, “A day before (his death), he still played around and prayed. He just slept and didn’t wake up. He died a peaceful death. Co-incidentally, he passed away barely 15 minutes to my birthday. We always celebrated the day together but now, whenever I want to celebrate my birthday, I would always remember him. Majek was a national treasure. His birthday, March 7, should be celebrated all over the country.”

Paying tribute to his late dad, the singer’s son, Randy, said in a video recording on social media. He said, “I thank everybody who has shown love to us these past days. My family is devastated by this situation and we’re doing our best to give one another strength to overcome this. My father was an incredible person beyond the spiritual talents that he had. We appreciated his uniqueness, decision to stand for things no one else would stand for, his mistakes and experiences. The other part of him that most people don’t know is the dad aspect. He was a loving father of three— me, Michael and Destiny. I can go on for days on the amazing experiences we have had with him.

“I loved my father and I will miss him. I know he’s in a good place. God has a reason for everything. If you knew dad, you would know that he never said ‘bye’, he always said ‘peace and love’.”

Sleep well, the unarguably Nigeria’s ever best reggae musician. 

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