Majek Fashek (1963-2020): The Triumphs, the Storm, the Travails

By Eric Elezuo

Could you believe that even age mates of late Majek Fashek believed he was 71 years, and was born in 1949. They claimed that was what the official record said…such naivety. One day, someone would tell them something different from their names, and they will believe because one supposedly ‘impeccable’ source has erroneously written it. I still wonder what we do with our brains, even with claims that we have been to school. Well, that is a story for another day!

He was only 25 years in 1988 when his glory filled not only the airwaves but the nook and crannies of the Nigerian music and entertainment circle. It didn’t stop there, Majekodunmi Fasheke, known as Majek Fashek for short, took his epic arrival into stardom more than a niche further, covering the world with his own form of ‘Righteousness’. He dished out hits after hits, making him the epicentre of Reggae music in Nigeria, competing favourably with the likes of Alpha Blonde and Lucky Dube in the Africa continent, and world icons like Robert Nester Marley, Peter Tosh, Gregory Isaac and many more. New York Daily News hailed him as the spiritual heir to Bob Marley.

Majek Fashek occupied the late 80s and early 90s like a colossus, as his hit album, Prisoner of Conscience with the track ‘Send Down the Rain’, became a national anthem of some sort. Every child could sing the song; it was on the lips of every adult. And of course, it was interwoven with childlike chorus which heralds the arrival of mothers after a long absence. It was made for all ages; a product of long term planing. More so, its prophetic orientation and spiritual undertone made it a toast for all season.

In a 2013, when Fashek’s former bandmate and cousin, Amos McRoy, granted an interview with now defunct Entertainment Express Newspaper, he claimed that the singer told him the song ‘Send Down The Rain’ had a spiritual force behind it.

That was one of the things he told me in Cote d’Ivoire. Based on what he told me, I think he ‘crossed the line’ before he released the album,” McRoy said in that interview.

In Cote d’Ivoire, I asked him certain questions. His reply was: ‘Amos, are you that naive? I released Send Down The Rain, everywhere that song was played, rain must fall. Even in summer while we were on US tour, I played Send Down The Rain and rain fell. I released Free Mandela and that month Mandela was released. I did fire (Majek Beware) the week that record was released was the week the Rodney King incident happened. That song, Fire o! Fire o! was played for almost two months in all the TV and radio stations in Los Angeles during that Rodney King episode. So, are you that naive? Don’t you reason?

He practically started a musical revolution in 1988, and by 1989, he carted away six awards at the PMAN Awards including two of the most important nominations; the prestigious Album of the Year and Song of the Year categories. His Send Down the Rain competed in the category of millennial hits such as Nico Mbago’s Sweet Mother and Onyeka Onwenu’s One Love in not only national, but international appeals.

One thing is obvious, no Nigerian song has been so mythologized as ‘Send Down the Rain’ and by extension, Holy Spirit. He composed every song personally, and gave Bob Marley’s ‘Redemption Song’ a touch of excellence when he remixed it. No one can deny that Fashek was a legend. A typical example of one who came during his time, saw and conquered. Many believed he had room for more conquest if not for the self-destructive mode he put himself. Reports had it that he dabbled into spiritism, not drug use, and ruined a God-given career.

This as much was confirmed by McRoy thus:

“Truth is Majek’s problem is spiritual. Majek strayed into spiritism.

Majek’s problem is not drug-related. He took to alcoholism to get over his real problem. Failing to keep the rules of whatever he delved into, he started to hallucinate. He started seeing things. For instance, if he was in a room, he would tell you ‘open the door, open the window’. If you tell him the air condition is on, he would say “Can’t you see them spirits; you want to trap the spirits. Men, let the spirits move around.”

In the peak of his career in 1991, Fashek visited New York for the first time, and that was when he released the track ‘Mashek Fashek Inna New York’. The excited attached to the song would reveal his clear human nature, as he x-rayed life in the city that never sleeps in comparison to what is obtainable in other cities of the world. He was practically surprised to see that there were homeless people, beggars and destitute in New York.

Born in February 1963 in Benin City, Edo State, Mashek Fashek, who was known as Rajesh Kanal in the early 80s when he started music, was part of a group called Jastix along with McRoy Gregg, and Black Rice who was the lead singer. They featured as the in-house band of a music show ‘Music Panorama’ which aired on NTA Benin. One can confidently say he was motivated by The Mandators, led by Victor Essiet. The group launched Reggae in Nigeria with ‘Sunrise’ in 1979.
He featured as one of the session musicians for an upcoming female Reggae singer known as Edi Rasta. Today, she is fondly remembered as Evi Edna Ogholi, arguably Nigeria’s Queen of Reggae. He went solo after Jastix disbanded, and signed on to Tabansi where he released ‘Send Down the Rain’ in 1988.
He followed up the success of the debut album with I&I Experience under Tabansi Records in 1989. The successes he recorded drew the attention of CBS Records Nigeria (now Sony Music), which released the album ‘So Long Too Long’ in 1990. In the same year, he signed to Interscope Records and released the album ‘Spirit of Love’ in 1991.
In 1992, Fashek make history as the first Nigerian singer to appear on a late-night TV show in America, the David Letterman Show, where he sang ‘So Long, Too Long’.
Many believe that Majek Fashek was a victim of inability to manage success. Though his success wasn’t spontaneous cause he worked for it, it came like an avalanche when it did. And in a space of three to five years, he became a toast of the music world. By the end of the 1990s, he was nowhere to be found though his songs still reverberate on the airwaves; his personality was gone. When he was spotted, he was a shadow of himself, a vegetable; highly emaciated. At a time, he was reportedly spotted in Ikeja begging for alms to buy cigarrete. He was losing it!
In the midst of his crisis, he managed to release an album ‘Rainmaker’ in 1997, and collapsed into oblivion for years until he resurfaced, after spirited efforts by well meaning Nigerians including his manager, Umenka Uzoma Day, to release ‘Little Patience’ with November Records. His person was gone…just the talent managed to showcase. People knew from the video that it was just a matter of time.
As at the time he visited Ovation Magazine in late 2017, he was practically inaudible; it was his manager who said most of the things on his behalf.
Until his death on June 1, 2020 as announced by Uzoma Day, in New York, the musical legend, Mashek Fashek, was battling to regain both his health and personality. He lost both! But the gift he gave to the world in his lyrics will forever live, and never to be tampered with.
Speaking on his death, Chairman, Music Society of Nigeria, Chief Tony Okoroji, who was the PMAN president when Fashek carted away six awrds in 1988, said “Majek is not dead, he travelled”
And like Majek himself said during the funeral of Ras Kimono, ‘Rastas don’t die’
Adieu the Rainmaker, Mashek Fashek!

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button
%d bloggers like this: