Nigeria has unarguably lost an iconic reggae musician in the death of Majek Fashek on June 2, 2020, in New York, United States. Aged 57, the celebrated songwriter and instrumentalist popularly called the “Rainmaker” will be sorely missed by his numerous admirers. Unfortunately, Majek Fashek’s exit came two years after the death of another talented Nigerian reggae musician, Ras Kimono. Majek was one of the greatest reggae musicians in Africa.
Without doubt, his death has left a huge vacuum in the reggae music genre, which will be very hard to fill. According to his manager, Mr. Omenka Uzoma, “the legend has gone to be with the Lord, but this time we should all celebrate him. He has done a lot for Nigeria.” Born Majekodunmi Fasheke to an Edo mother and a Yoruba father, his musical career started in the Aladura Church, where his mother was a member.
Therefore, he can be rightly said to belong to what the late Cameroonian iconic musician and ace saxophonist, Manu Dibango, described as those raised “in the Hallelujah.” Majek’s brand of reggae music was highly influenced by Christian religion and church choir. His reggae music drew a lot from the music of the legendary Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix and Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.
Despite the Caribbean influence, Majek also spiced his reggae songs with idioms rooted in Nigerian culture. He nurtured and exported his Kpangolo brand of reggae to the world. Majek, whose earlier stage name was Rajesh Kanal played music with the Jastix group made up of musicians such as McRoy Gregg and Black Rice. Majek Fashek came to the scene at almost the same time with Terra Cotta, Ras Kimono, The Mandators, Evi Edna Ogholi and Orits Wiliki.
After a stint with the Jastix group and other musical groups in the country, Majek went on solo career in 1988 when he released his debut album, “The Prisoner of Conscience” with Tabansi Records. One of the tracks in the maiden album, “Send Down the Rain” launched Majek to stardom. It literally became the most popular song in the country. Besides, the song has a prophetic tinge that each time it is played, the rains will pour like never before. On account of this, the musician was dubbed, the “rainmaker” by fans. Interestingly, the same feat was enacted on the day the rainmaker died.
Majek’s maiden album was very successful that he won six PMAN awards in 1989 among which were, “Song of the Year,” “Album of the Year,” as well as the “Reggae Artiste of the Year.” His second album on Tabansi label, “I &I Experience,” released in 1989 was equally successful. His 1991 album, “So Long, Too Long” had strong political and political messages akin to protest music. One of his protest songs,“Free Africa, Free Mandela,” was his contribution to the free Mandela campaign of the 1990s.
At the height of his fame and global acclaim, Majek Fashek featured on the popular David Letterman chat show on US television, where he performed his iconic song, “So Long, Too Long.” His songs are laced with eternal messages and some of them, including “Send Down the Rain” and “So Long, Too Long” have become evergreen. The great reggae artiste worked with global musical icons such as Tracy Chapman, Jimmy Cliff, Michael Jackson, Snoop Dogg, Beyonce and Danny Erskine.
Majek was a committed reggae musician and consummate artiste. He was a great mentor to so many Nigerian reggae musicians. His like cannot be so easy to replicate. In fact, there will never be another Majek Fashek. Such musical stars usually come once in a lifetime. Although Majek had immortalised himself through his songs, we still urge the Federal Government to honour him for his contributions to the nation and reggae music.
It is unfortunate that his musical career witnessed a lull after years of absence from the scene on account of failing health. However, in 2017, Majek with Tuface Idibia released his new single, “Take Over Me,” an adaptation from his old song, “Holy Spirit.” Regrettably, all efforts to revive his musical career suffered a setback until his final exit.
We commiserate with his family, his fans and the musical world over the great loss. May God grant his creative soul eternal repose.