REGGAE star Majek Fashek joyfully sang “Majek Fashek in the New York” and the gifted musician died in a hospital in the American city on Monday around 5:45 pm. after a health crisis that lasted nine months— September 2019 till June 2020.
A singer and multi-instrumentalist, Fashek introduced the world to a softer-edged style of reggae which he touted as ‘kpangolo music’ in 1988 on his debut album ‘Prisoner of Conscience’. His influences included Jimi Hendrix to Bob Marley and Fela Anikulapo Kuti.
In an interview with E-Weekly on Silverbird Television, Majek acknowledged Bob Marley and Fela Anikulapo-Kuti as his sources of inspiration. “I was inspired by Bob Marley and Fela Anikulapo Kuti. I have the pain of Bob Marley, that was why Rita Marley and the family decided to help me when I had issues after my Interscope deal failed.”
Majek was married to Rita Fashek, who shares the first name with Marley’s wife, Rita Marley. Majek repudiated the popular notion that he was into drugs.
“I have never used drugs, cocaine, or what have you. These are mere concoctions of junk or drunken press in the United States of America. I have never used drugs in the U.S. or Nigeria,” he said in an interview with TV personality and host of Rubbin Minds, Ebuka Obi-Uchendu.
However, he claimed to have spiritual attacks and problems. “I have been having spiritual attacks and that is an African thing. It’s spiritual,” he said.
In 2008, Majek’s path crossed with that of filmmaker and record label owner, Charles Novia. The erudite filmmaker was quick to sign a deal to release and promote Majek’s last album ‘Little Patience’ after proper documentation from Coral Music, USA.
“Majek was a legend, someone who influenced my life as a kid and somehow, fate brought me to him to release his album, ‘Little Patience’. I took it as an act of fate and gave it all my best with the record deal then. I feel privileged and honour to have worked with him,” he enthused.
Novia added: “I spoke to Majek last three years ago. I think I saw him last in Abuja in 2017 on a flight and we had a little banter and shared some jokes. I think we spoke later on in the same year.”
At the high point of his career, Majek maintained a coherent sense of lyric line and continuously drew out key phrases in an elaborate manner – sometimes repeating the same phrase multiple times until he climaxed into a sing-along.
Majek polished his singing while with Jastix, a band he toured alongside fellow reggae group, The Mandators.
“I would remember him for the good time we had. I managed him for five years and it’s a privilege. I tried to get him back on track and push him out there because for me I was managing the biggest act in Africa then even though he was quite a handful you know with everything going on in his life at the time but I feel honoured and privileged to have worked with him,” Novia said.
Novia stressed that Majek was a very talented soul, who was also highly spiritual.
“He was a very talented and soft soul. He was beautiful in and out. Majek was a beautiful soul. He had a soft side of him, he didn’t like to see people suffer so he would always want to help. On the streets, when he saw children begging for alms or hawking wares, he would feel pained and if he had any money, he would dash it out all. He was a free spirit and very spiritual. He could pray all day, he was very deep spiritually and sort of understood how to commune with God in such a way that some of us don’t know. I think he was a prophet.”
His exact age is a subject of controversy. There are talks that the late legendary singer died at the age of 57 while others insist that he was 61 at the time of death.
Novia insisted: “Majek was born in 1962, so he was 58 years. He was 58 years not 61 or any other age.”
His delayed biopic
Novia said Majek delayed the biopic after giving the go-ahead for the commencement of the film.
Novia said: “We were supposed to work on a biopic which he didn’t want again and he told me to hold on and which is uncanny because he had given all the rights but later he insisted that I should hold on till he’s dead. We were about to start shooting 10 years ago when he stopped it again.”
He said he would shoot the film now that Majek is dead. “I’m still going to shoot that movie as a legacy or a biopic or a documentary on him for his legacy and his estate.”
Between Edo and Osun
Though his father was from Ilesha in Osun State, Majek identified more with his Benin roots. He was born in Benin City to an Edo mother and an Ilesha father.
Top entertainers, dignitaries pay tributes
Top Nigerian entertainers have been paying tribute to the reggae legend, Majek Fashek who died on Monday.
Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki said: “I mourn the death of quintessential, maverick musician and Edo son, Majek Fashek. Fashek, who took the world by storm with his enigmatic talent, remains one of the finest cultural icons of his age and would be remembered for his disarming craft and skill. Majek Fashek was born by an Edo mother, grew up in Benin City, and stood as a shining light for youths in the state to emulate. He remains a force to reckon with, serving as an inspiration to Benin boys and girls and many more people across races and tribes. He will remain in our hearts as one of those who defied the odds to reach global acclaim at a time no one gave him much of a chance. His skill shone brightly and the world could not but look his way and acknowledge his undeniable gift. He will be sorely missed.”
Afrobeat musician Dede Mabiaku said: “It’s a sad loss but he has gone to rest. It will be recorded in the book of history that he came, he saw and he conquered.”
For Nollywood star, Kate Henshaw said: “The sky looks misty and cloudy, looks like the rain’s gonna fall today. RIP Majek Fashek… I pray you finally rest well. Thank you for the great songs. Thank you for using your talent to bring smiles on our faces… Sun rè.”
Star musician Eedris Abdulkareem said: “As a massive rainfall bids a teary farewell to the rainmaker. He was one of a kind, a uniquely gifted performer. He was the Eleywon who lyrically called out Naija’s Prisoners of Conscience. He was the Rainmaker who crooned and the heavens will release its mist. He was one of a kind, so handsome and humane Inside out.
“He was and is still our own Majek Fashek, and yes, he was phenomenally electric, eccentric and unforgettably Magical! Trod on Dread, trod on Eleywon… You’re finally free to soar and perform with Jah’s Angelic Band.”
Public Relations guru Ayeni Adekunle said he was saddened by the passing of reggae music legend. “Majekodunmi Fasheke was an extraordinary talent who blessed the world with a unique version of reggae music birthed by the infusion of special African rhythms and sounds that he named kpangolo. And the world fell in love with him. With his creative genius, remarkable stage presence, deep spirituality and commercial appeal, Majek Fashek redefined what it meant to be a globally recognized African music star. He broke all barriers and penetrated hearts and homes beyond the shores of the continent. Majek’s success in the late 80s and early 90s helped breathe new life into the local Nigerian music scene, and his works continue to inspire today’s generation of artistes and performers. He will forever be remembered not only for sending down the rain but also for his reign as leading cultural ambassador of Nigerian music, which he proudly introduced to millions of people around the world. While we mourn Majek Fashek’s passing and commiserate with his family on this loss, we continue to celebrate his remarkable life and the evergreen music he left us with.”
Mike Odiong, Project Manager, Premier Music, described Majek as a legend.
“When I was a kid I wanted to sing like Yvonne Maha and many other artists. Majek was the one that saw that singing thing in me at 14 years old. He did my Demo then at Tabansi recording in Ikeja. The following year I left for America.
“He visited me here in New York and our friendship continued. He invited me to a show in Manhattan where he and Ras Kimono were opening for Lucky Dube, and that is how I found myself on stage dancing with Dube ( RIP, Dube). I was so proud of him and Kimono as the club was gyrating to his popular music, ‘ Send down the rain’. Majek Fashek continued to battle the demon that would eventually consume him. We tried to help him, but it was beyond our reach. Majek was the kindest person you will ever come across. A great singer and an innovator. He was a consummated creative artist, whose work will never be forgotten. I would have tagged his name and those who knew him here in New York if my main account was not suspended. My big bros, Majek Fashek. Rest in peace and may Jah Lord receive your soul. Amen,” Odiong said.
Ace broadcaster Jimi Disu said Majek was a very special human being. “It’s unfortunate how he died. I remember in the heydays when we were doing the gong show at the fantasy night club where I was the general manager. He came and participated and he won hands down and that was where he broke out into the media because the show was covered by both print and electronic,” he said.
Music star Skid Ikemefuna said: “He was a talented, God blessed musician. As he has left, my regret was that he would have done it better than he did. He would have helped other Nigerian musicians coming up. Along the line, we were able to identify drugs as destructive to musicians. Osadebe never took drugs, he didn’t smoke igbo. He continued playing till he died. That one big mistake Majek made. And once you get hooked on it, just forget it. Look at Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston. I have been managing and handling musicians for over 35 years. You will see good musicians, once they get into drugs, it’s all over. He was an icon that would have done a lot. The way he penetrated the international scene was only done by Fela. Fela’s music was different. ‘Send down the rain’ was done by the Jahstix. It was purely reggae. When he started his own, he added rock to it which was part of his influence. The second album he made with a Jazz keyboardist had a rock and a mellowed jazz influence. God bless him wherever he is, let God accept him. May he go to heaven for the joy he gave to people.”